Mary Prepares Jesus’ Body To Be Buried
[Jesus said,] “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.” (Matthew 26:12)
Jesus told his followers that he had to go to Jerusalem to be arrested and crucified. The disciples didn’t seem to fully understand, or maybe they just didn’t want to believe it. But one woman, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, believed Jesus was predicting his own death. She wanted to do something special for Jesus that needed to be done. When someone died, it was the Jewish custom to pour expensive perfume on the body before it was buried. The only time this didn’t happen was if the person was put to death for a crime. People who were crucified didn’t get a nice funeral. No one had a chance to put perfume on the body of those who were crucified.
Mary believed Jesus when he said he would be crucified. She decided to prepare his body to be buried before he died. She knew she wouldn’t have the chance afterward. When Jesus was at the home of a man named Simon, she came to him with a special jar full of very expensive perfume. It cost as much as a person earned in a full year. She broke open the jar and poured every drop on Jesus’ head and on his feet. He understood that she was showing her love for him.
When the disciples saw this, some of them got angry. Some of them were harsh with the woman. Judas said, “Why this waste? The perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to poor people.” She wasn’t wasting the perfume. She was giving the best she had to Jesus. But Judas didn’t really care about the poor people anyway. He was the disciple who kept the money bags. He was thinking of all the money he could have stolen for himself.
Jesus came to her defense. “Leave her alone,” Jesus said. “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.” Then he told them that her act of love and devotion would be told wherever the good news was told, all over the world.
Mary couldn’t stop Jesus from being crucified. But she could do something. She did what she could. And Jesus praised her for that. He honored her because she showed her love for him the best way she could.
Mary did what she could to honor Jesus. What can you do to show your love for Jesus?
The Plot To Catch and Kill Jesus
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. (Matthew 26:3-4)
Some people who had seen Lazarus raised from the dead went back to the chief priests. They told them what Jesus had done. The chief priests and the elders of the people called an emergency meeting. They met at the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest. They were afraid. If Jesus went on performing such powerful miracles, everyone would believe in him. If more Jews believed Jesus was the Messiah, there was more danger from the Romans. The Jewish leaders feared they would lose their positions and the nation. So they made plans to catch and kill Jesus. They planned to kill Lazarus too. When people saw Lazarus alive from the dead, they believed in Jesus!
During their meeting, Caiaphas, the high priest said, “It is better for you that one man die for the people than the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50) He didn’t say this on his own. He didn’t realize that God was speaking through him. He was the high priest. So, God used him to predict that Jesus would die for the people. From then on the Jewish leaders looked for a way to catch and kill Jesus.
As time for the Passover Feast drew near, Jews came to Jerusalem from all over Israel. Everyone was wondering if Jesus would come to the feast. Jesus was staying out of the way until God’s proper time. He was the “Lamb of God.” He had to die at Passover, not before. The Jewish leaders were on the lookout for Jesus. They wanted to arrest him, but not during the feast. They had to find a sly way to arrest him without people noticing. Many people who were coming to the feast believed in Jesus. They might riot if Jesus was arrested openly.
Several times Jesus told his disciples that he would be handed over to be crucified. Jesus knew he was going to Jerusalem to die! He even knew that one of his own disciples would help in the plot to catch him. Judas Iscariot was the one. Judas went to the chief priests and asked, “What will you give me if I hand Jesus over to you?” So they counted out thirty silver coins for him. From then on Judas looked for a good time to help them catch Jesus. He looked for a time when Jesus would be away from the crowds.
God sent his one and only Son to die to pay for the sin of the whole world. The people planning Jesus’ death didn’t understand because they didn’t believe in him. They just thought they were saving their country. They were able to get Jesus killed, but they didn’t save their country. Less than forty years later the Romans destroyed the temple and Jerusalem.
The religious leaders were so jealous of Jesus that they wanted to kill him. Has jealousy ever made you do or say something that hurt others?
A Grand Entry Into Jerusalem
They [the disciples] brought it [a donkey colt] to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road... . The whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices... “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:35-38)
The prophets predicted that the Messiah would make a grand entry into Jerusalem, riding on the colt, a foal of a donkey. Jesus knew the prophecy of Zechariah. It said, “City of Zion, be full of joy! People of Jerusalem, shout! See, your king comes to you. He always does what is right. He has the power to save. He is gentle and riding on a donkey. He is sitting on a donkey’s colt.”
Jesus approached Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. He sent two of his disciples ahead to get the donkey. He told them to untie it, and if anyone asked why, they were to say, “The Lord needs it.” They brought the young donkey to Jesus, threw their coats on its back, and put Jesus on it. They had all been waiting for Jesus to make a public announcement that he was the Messiah. This grand entry into Jerusalem was the sign they were waiting for!
The crowd understood too. Many had seen or heard about his recent miracles: raising Lazarus from the dead and healing the blind man. They praised God for his miracles. They welcomed Jesus as their king, throwing their coats on the ground before him and waving palm branches. Christians today celebrate Jesus’ grand entry into Jerusalem on what is called “Palm Sunday.”
By the time Jesus came to the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd was praising God with loud voices. They shouted, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (This was a prophecy from Psalm 118:26.) They were clearly honoring him as Messiah. There were Pharisees in the crowd. They tried to stop what was happening. They told Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” The Messiah king deserved praise and honor!
When Jesus got to where he could see Jerusalem, he began to sob. Oh, how he loved Jerusalem! He said, “I wish you had known today what would bring you peace!” Jesus is the one who brings true peace. But they didn’t recognize him, so the truth was hidden from them. Then he prophesied how the city would be surrounded and destroyed. He said, “You didn’t recognize the time when God came to you. So your enemies will smash you to the ground. They will destroy you and all the people inside your walls. They will not leave one stone on top of another.” This came true when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in the year A.D. 70.
Do you honor Jesus as your king? If so, how do you honor him?
Disruption at the Temple
Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. (Matthew 21:12)
People came to the temple at Passover to worship God, offer sacrifices, make offerings, and pay a yearly temple tax. They came from far away, so they would buy animals for the sacrifices near the temple. They also needed to change their local money for the kind of coins used in the temple. The court of the Gentiles was the outer area of the temple where people who weren’t Jews could worship. Some people set up shop there, selling animals and exchanging money for high fees. They were taking advantage of the people who came to worship, making them pay more than was necessary. Their marketplace also took up space where outsiders were supposed to be able to pray. Jesus didn’t like it one bit!
Jesus went into the temple area. He chased out all the people who were buying and selling where they should have been worshiping God and praying. He turned over their tables. Mark’s gospel says some people were walking through the temple carrying things to sell. They may have been using the temple as a short-cut to get to the marketplace. Jesus stopped them. As he was chasing the money-changers out he said, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den for robbers.’”
Those who were misusing God’s temple ran away. But some people ran to Jesus. Blind and sick people came to Jesus. And he healed them. The children also ran to Jesus. They praised him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! When the chief priests and teachers of the law heard this, they became angry. “Son of David” was a name for the Messiah. They asked Jesus if he heard what the children were saying. He heard! And he knew the children were doing what God’s Word said they would do. Jesus replied to the chief priests and teachers of the law, “...have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.’” That was a quote from Psalm 8:2, saying that children and infants would praise the Lord. Jesus is the Lord!
After that, Jesus left the temple and went out to the city of Bethany. He spent the night there. Bethany is the city where Lazarus, Mary, and Martha lived.
God planned for children to praise him. When and how do you praise the Lord?
New Meaning to the Passover Meal
And he [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them [the apostles], saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)
Jews celebrate Passover every year to remember when God freed them from slavery in Egypt. Back in Egypt they had to kill a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts of their homes, so the angel of death would pass over them. That protected them from God’s curse. God told the Jews to have a special meal at a special time each year to remember what God had done to free them. Important parts of the meal were these: a sacrificial lamb, unleavened bread, and the cup of wine. Jesus was about to give new meaning to the Passover meal.
Jesus ate his last Passover meal with his disciples the night before he died on the cross. This meal is sometimes called the Last Supper. During this meal, Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray him. That was Judas. Judas left before the meal was over. Jesus said he wouldn’t eat the Passover again until he ate it with them in his father’s kingdom. Then Jesus served the cup and the bread. He told his followers to remember his death, and its meaning, by taking the cup and the bread until he comes back. This is called communion.
Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover meal. The main dish was lamb -- a lamb that had been sacrificed. At the first Passover a lamb’s blood protected them from God’s curse of death. Jesus came to die on Passover. He is the lamb, sacrificed to pay for our sins. If we believe Jesus is our sacrifice, we are protected from God’s judgment for our sins. We are protected from death.
The unleavened bread was a symbol of having no sin. Leaven is yeast that makes bread rise into a fluffy loaf. The Bible uses leaven as a symbol of evil or sin. Unleavened bread has no leaven. It’s like a cracker and a symbol of having no sin. Jesus broke the unleavened bread and said,”This is my body. It is given for you.” Jesus had no sin in him. He gave his sinless body for us.
After supper Jesus told them the cup of wine is the new covenant in his blood. A covenant is an agreement. The old agreement between God and people said that sin would be covered by the blood of sacrificed animals -- every year. The new agreement said that Jesus’ blood would be poured out as a sacrifice for sin. Jesus’ blood is better than the blood of animals. His sacrifice is good forever.
Have you ever taken communion to remember Jesus’ death?
Arrested, Tried and Tortured
Then seizing him [Jesus], they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. (Luke 22:54)
After the Last Supper, Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives. He often prayed there. This night Jesus was very sad and troubled. He knew what was about to happen to him. He prayed three times, asking his Father in heaven to keep him from suffering -- if there was any other way. He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” He was in such agony that an angel came to him to give him strength.
A crowd came toward Jesus. Judas was leading the chief priests, the temple guard, and the elders. They were carrying clubs and swords. Judas kissed Jesus. That was the sign he said he would give. Peter was ready to fight for Jesus. He drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest. Jesus told him to put his sword away. Then he healed the man’s ear.
First Jesus was taken to the house of the high priest. Peter followed along. Earlier, Jesus had told Peter that he would act like he didn’t know him. Jesus said Peter would deny knowing him three times before the rooster crowed the next morning. Peter found that hard to believe. While Peter was waiting to see what would happen, people asked if he had been with Jesus. Three times Peter said he didn’t even know Jesus. Then the rooster crowed. Jesus turned and looked right at Peter. Then Peter ran outside and sobbed.
The soldiers started making fun of Jesus and beating him. They blindfolded him and took turns slugging him. Then they said, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” At dawn the chief priests and teachers of the law held a trial. When Jesus admitted that he was the Son of God, they said he was guilty of blasphemy. They decided he should be put to death. But they had to get the Roman governor to pass the death sentence. So they took him to Pilate. Pilate had the authority to sentence Jesus to death, but he said, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” When he heard Jesus was from Galilee, he sent him to Herod. Herod was the governor over Galilee. And he was in Jerusalem for Passover. Herod asked Jesus many questions. But Jesus wouldn’t answer him. The soldiers made fun of Jesus, dressed him up like a king, and put a crown of thorns on his head. But Herod found him “not guilty” of any crime that deserved death. So he sent him back to Pilate. Pilate tried to let him go. He, too, said Jesus had done nothing worthy of death. He wanted to whip him and let him go. But the crowd kept screaming, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” So Pilate did what they wanted. He ordered that Jesus be whipped and then crucified.
Jesus was accused and punished for something he didn’t do. Have you ever been punished for something you didn’t do? How did that feel?
Jesus Goes to the Cross To Die for Us
When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him [Jesus], along with the criminals -- one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:33-34a)
Jesus had been whipped terribly. Then he was forced to carry his wooden cross. A man named Simon carried the cross part of the way for Jesus. Many people followed. Some women cried loudly because their hearts were filled with sorrow. Jesus and two criminals were taken to a place called The Skull. Another word for “skull” in Latin is “Calvaria.” That’s why people now say Jesus died at Calvary. There they nailed Jesus to the cross to die.
As Jesus was being crucified, he said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” The soldiers divided up his clothes and gambled to see who would keep them. They didn’t realize they were fulfilling words in Psalm 22:16 and 18. There it says, “A band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. ... People stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” (See Psalms 22:16-18) All of that happened to Jesus.
The people stood there watching. The rulers even made fun of Jesus. They said, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him. One of the criminals hanging beside Jesus insulted him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” He was mocking Jesus. The other criminal sincerely put his faith in Jesus. He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
A sign was placed above Jesus. It said, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” At about noon the sun stopped shining. It was dark for about three hours while Jesus was dying. Matthew’s gospel says that there was also an earthquake. A special curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This curtain kept people out of the Most Holy Place -- where the priest came into God’s presence. God tore the curtain. This showed that the death of Jesus made it possible for people to go directly into God’s presence. Then Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Then Jesus died.
Many people watched Jesus die: his mother, his followers, the women from Galilee, and the crowds. The Roman commander saw all that happened when Jesus died. He said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
What kinds of feelings do you think people felt as they watched Jesus die? How might you have felt if you were there to watch Jesus die?