Mark’s account of Wednesday during the first Holy Week is just 9 verses – 1 verse longer than his account of Monday. This still tops Luke, who writes just 6 verses about Wednesday, and John, who gives no information about the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday of the first Holy Week.
“Jesus was eating in Bethany at the home of Simon, who once had leprosy, when a woman came in with a very expensive bottle of sweet-smelling perfume. After breaking it open, she poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. This made some the guests angry, and they complained, ‘Why such a waste? We could have sold this perfume for more than three hundred silver coins and given the money to the poor!’ So they started saying cruel things to the woman.
“But Jesus said: Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for me. You will always have the poor with you. And whenever you want to, you can give to them. But you won’t always have me here with you. She has done all she could by pouring perfume on my body to prepare it for burial. You may be sure that wherever the good news is told all over the world, people will remember what she has done. And they will tell others.
“Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples. He went to the chief priests and offered to help them arrest Jesus. They were glad to hear this, and they promised to pay him. So Judas started looking for a good chance to betray Jesus.”
Jesus’ disciples and closest friends still don’t understand that he is about to die for them. But this woman does. Somehow she knows and she wants to express her love and gratitude for Jesus. She gives what she has to Jesus, including loving hands and total devotion. And she is ridiculed for the giving. She is criticized for her generosity, which is characterized as wasteful and selfish.
But Jesus defends her. “You could have found a poor person to take your place at this meal if you had wanted to help the poor. There will always be plenty of people who need help. But she wanted to help me.” Jesus tells us that she will always be remembered – but we don’t even know her name.
Wednesday ends with Judas offering to betray Jesus to the chief priests.
Mark 11:20 – 14:2
After they passed by the withered fig tree, Jesus and his disciples went back to the temple where the religious leaders questioned Jesus’ right to cleanse the temple, as he had done the day before. Jesus replies that he will answer their question if they can tell him who gave John the right to baptize people. But they are too wishy-washy to give any answer but “We don’t know.”
Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who built and planted a vineyard and then leased it to others to maintain and harvest. But the renters did not what to pay the owner his share. They mistreated servants he sent to collect and then even killed the owner’s son thinking they would get the land. The religious leaders knew that this parable was about them but they were afraid to act against Jesus.
“The Pharisees got together with Herod’s followers. Then they sent some men to trick Jesus into saying something wrong.” They asked Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus answered, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.”
“The Sadducees did not believe that people would rise to life after death. So some of them came to Jesus . . .” and proposed a situation that they thought would prove how ridiculous the idea of life after death is. But Jesus answered, “You know that in the story about Moses and the burning bush, God said, ‘I am the God worshiped by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ God isn’t the God of the dead, but of the living.”
One of the teachers of the Law of Moses asked Jesus, “What is the most important commandment?” Jesus answered, “The most important one says: ‘People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God. You must love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” The second most important commandment says: ‘Love others as much as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is more important than these.”
Jesus and his disciples watched a poor widow give two coins as an offering at the temple. Then Jesus said, “I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had. Now she doesn’t have a cent to live on.” Many people think this little story is about money and giving to your church. But I think this is a story that foreshadows what Jesus is going to do. Jesus is going to give everything he has for you and me. And he will die.
Then as they are leaving the temple Jesus remarks that the buildings they admired will not be standing for very long. Later, on the Mount of Olives, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Jesus, “When will these things happen?” Jesus tells them to “watch out” and “be on your guard.” He tells them some of the signs of his return but then he says, “No one knows the day or the time. The angels in heaven don’t know, and the Son himself doesn’t know. Only the Father knows. So watch out and be ready!”
As Tuesday comes to an end the religious leaders are planning how to have Jesus arrested without causing the people to riot.
Mark 11:12-19 with verses 20-26 from Holy Tuesday
“When Jesus and his disciples left Bethany the next morning, he was hungry.” This is the beginning of a two-part story which includes verses 12, 13, and 14 here on a Monday morning and then verses 20 through 26 which describes what happened the next morning. I am going to include it here because Tuesday has enough to discuss without it.
The fig tree is symbolic of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is fruit tree which does not bear fruit. The people of Jerusalem have not responded to their call as the Chosen People to be a light to the nations. They have taken the title of “Chosen” as an honor which bears privileges that will lift them up above all the other people of the world but does not require them to be a blessing or to act as a servant.
So Jesus condemns the fig tree and his disciples are surprised when they find it dried up the next morning. Jesus tells his disciples that the power to do such a thing is a matter of faith and forgiveness. Faith that God is willing and waiting to help you do whatever needs to be done and forgiveness that is alive in your heart for those who hurt you because you are willing to ask and receive God’s forgiveness of your sins.
“After Jesus and his disciples reached Jerusalem, he went into the temple and began chasing out everyone who was selling and buying. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of those who were selling doves. Jesus would not let anyone carry things through the temple.”
This has been one of the most misused passages of Scriptures in the history of the New Testament. Many people have tried to use this passage to justify what they think of as “righteous anger.” They say, “Jesus got angry and chased people out of the temple.” All four of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, include this story but not one of them say that Jesus got angry.
Our problem is that we cannot imagine doing such a thing without being angry. We use anger to help us control other people and we cultivate anger as way to make sure that we are “right” and everybody else is “wrong.” But Jesus is very clear about anger in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26): anger is not to be used or cultivated or it will take us down a very dark path.
It is not hard to imagine what was happening: Herod the Great had started an expansion of courtyards surrounding the temple precinct. Only Jews could enter the temple precinct and no buying or selling went on within the temple precinct. But the temple precinct was surrounded by large courtyards on the north and the south and by more slender courtyards on the east and west. Most of the buying and selling probably went on in the southern courtyard because the great majority of people entered the temple from the south and the southwest sides of the temple mount.
Verse 16 speaks of Jesus not allowing people to carry things through the temple. In the time of Jesus the temple mount occupied about ¼ of the whole city. There were 8 to 12 gates to the temple mount and some of these could be used as short-cuts across Jerusalem. But as Jesus said, “The Scriptures say, ‘My house should be called a place of worship for all nations.’”
“The chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses heard what Jesus said, and they started looking for a way to kill him.”
Mark 10:46 – 11:11
Mark is the only gospel that gives us a fairly clear indication of each day of the week during the first Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Matthew and Luke do not distinguish between Monday and Tuesday. John appears to skip from Sunday to Thursday. So we are going to use Mark as our guide for Holy Week 2021.
Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho going to Jerusalem. The trip for them would have been about 15 miles with a 3,400 feet elevation gain. (If you want to experience something like this without going to Israel then travel out to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and climb to the top of Texas at Guadalupe Peak. The weather and the terrain are similar but the trail is only 4.2 miles.) Jesus and his disciples, who were used to walking and in their 20s or 30s probably made it to Jerusalem in about 6 hours.
But first, they encountered Bartimaeus – a blind man sitting next to the road and shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” When Bartimaeus is told that Jesus is calling him he jumps to his feet and runs to Jesus. Bartimaeus RAN to Jesus! I think there is a message here for us!
Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” Some of the disciples probably thought, “Jesus! He’s blind! What do you think he wants?” But Jesus wants us to be clear about what we want from him and he wants to hear us say it. “Master, I want to see!” Bartimaeus answered. What do you want from Jesus?
In the first six verses of chapter 11 we have a strange little story about what Jesus knows. They are entering Bethphage and Bethany which are on the east side of the Mount of Olives. Jesus sends two of his disciples ahead and tells them what to do and what will happen. Is this a miracle of Jesus’ foreknowledge or a product of his familiarity with the village of Bethany, home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus?
Jesus got on the donkey and began the climb to the top of the Mount of Olives and then down the western side. Along the way “many people spread clothes on the road, while others went to cut branches from the fields.” This was one way that the Jewish people welcomed a famous person.
The people shouted, “Hosanna! God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” This cry of greeting comes from Psalm 118:25-26 and is a plea for help from God in the form of a Messiah. This is spelled out even more specifically in verse 10, “God bless the coming kingdom of our ancestor David. Hosanna! to God on high!”
Jesus then crossed the Kidron Valley and went into the temple to see and to be seen. Then he and the disciples returned to Bethany for the night.
Holy Week marks the seven days leading up to the celebration on Easter Sunday. For each day this week, we’ve created a devotional for you to engage with the Easter story through God’s Word. Each daily devotional includes a selected reading from Scripture and a prompt to help you ponder the loving-kindness of our God. Our hope is that each day leads your heart to worship, your mind to awe, and your actions to grace and mercy as you reflect on this great God, who so loved us that He gave up His one and only Son for us.
Caring for the needs of our church and community through prayer, deeds, inspiration and love in the Spirit of Christ.
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Rev Pat Bell, Pastor
First United Methodist Church Sealy
200 Atchison Street
Sealy, Texas 77474