Good morning, New Women. Take a deep breath because we're getting into the hard part of this journey with Jesus. A lot of important things happen on this day before Passover, too much for one blog post, so if you want to read about the day in detail, go to Matthew 21:18 - 25:46. (I know, right?) It makes me realize that one twenty-four hour period can change a person's entire life from then on.
We've awakened in Bethany feeling sort of sideways, you know? Yesterday, watching Jesus wreck the "bizarre" that was going on in the temple, really shook us up, and the fact that Jesus is still pensive this morning puts all of us in a somber mood. Something is about to happen. We're sure of it.
As we head from Bethany toward Jerusalem, we're silent except for the growling of our stomachs. Nobody thought about breakfast before we left.
"We should eat," Jesus says.
He turns to a fig tree, and someone whispers, "Um, there's no fruit on there."
Jesus scowls at it and says in a brusque voice, "May you never bear fruit again."
Tthe tree withers.
"How did he do that?" someone murmurs.
Jesus, of course, hears and says to us, "You could do the same. You could even move a mountain." He smiles slightly at our bewildered faces. "Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive."
We would all like to stop right there, have a picnic breakfast, and get Jesus to explain that, but he is clearly on a roll. We head into Jerusalem at a brisk pace (some of us wishing we were in better shape ...) and go straight to the temple. The selling and questionable money lending has ceased, but we see something even worse.
The chief priests and elders -- the same crowd who questioned him yesterday -- are there in full force and they look like they are ready for a full fledged debate. We elbow each other and whisper, "This is going to be good."
We no sooner gather in the portico than they start in, asking Jesus by what authority he's come into Jerusalem to teach and heal and wreak havoc. Jesus starts to talk and he just doesn't stop.
* He tells three parables -- about two sons, wicked tenant, a weddding banquet. They don't get it.
* The intellectual arguments start -- about resurrection, the greatest commandment, Jesus being a son of David.
* Jesus scorns them for arguing with the truth and lays into them for being hypocrites (while we silently cheer)
* He prophesies about the end of the age and how they need to be ready (while we smile smugly)
* He tells more parables -- about ten bridesmaids and hiding your talents. (we're feeling better about our sweet selves by the minute)
The sun is starting its descent by the time the chief priests and elders go off in a huff and Jesus turns to us. The intensity has slipped from his face. He now looks tenderly said as he says, "Right after the Passover tomorrow night, I will be handed over to be crucified."
Then he turns and leads us back to Bethany. All the way there, we are silent and crestfallen. Didn't he put them all in their places? How can it be that they'll still turn against him? It makes no sense.
Jesus takes us to the house of a man named Simon, who has a pretty funky looking skin disease. Jesus doesn't even seem to see that as he sits wearily at his place at the table. Just as we're taking ours, a woman comes in and we squirm in our own seats. She's the kind of girl our moms would tell us to stay away from because she's bad news: too much make-up, clothes nobody would consider "modest", the overall look of a woman who's been around the block several times.
But we know Jesus is going to be kind to her. His face is already softening as she approaches him with a fancy jar. Without a word she opens the jar and pours something that we have to admit smells wonderful on Jesus' head. Come to think of it, he is pretty dusty and dirty looking after the walk back, not to mention exhausted from speaking all day. He closes his eyes as she massages his head with an oil that must have cost her plenty.
Somebody in our group sits straight up in her seat. "That stuff's worth about a hundred dollars an ounce. Isn't that kind of a waste?"
Someone else nods. "She could've sold it and given that money to the homeless."
Although most of don't say anything, all of us have sort of a guilty feeling. This is extravagant. How can we justify this when people are starving?
Jesus looks straight at us. "Why are you criticizing her? Did anybody else even offer me a place to wash my feet?"
Our eyes lower, but Jesus says, "Look at me, because this is important."
He waits for us to refocus our gazes on him before he goes on. "First of all, you'll always have the poor with you. Right now, this is important. She ..." He casts a loving look on the woman who sits at his feet. "She has anointed me for my burial. She knows I'm going to die, and she understands why. You have to grasp that too, my loves."
The room is quiet, almost prayerful. Until someone at the edge of the group who has come for dinner gets up, scowls at Jesus, and leaves, slamming the door behind him. Jesus' eyes are so sorrowful, no one asks what that was about.
After dinner, we're left with a lot to think about. As we return to the house where we're staying, we each settle our minds on one thing we've heard today that registers with us, that stays with us, that whispers to us, "Ponder this." (Perhaps something in red above.)
When we get settled in for the night, none of us can sleep, so we comment to each other about what we've thought about. We were so smug listening to Jesus call the chief priests hypocrites. but now ...
Blessings, New Women -- today and in the days left in this Holy Week. I'll be back tomorrow.