Shifting Gears

Philippians 2:5
John 12:1
Let the same mind be in you...

The night before Palm Sunday, Jesus was in Bethany and Mary came to anoint him (John 12:1). In the novel that I am writing about Holy Week, I have Mary proclaiming that Jesus is King. Her perfumed oil wasn’t just given in thanksgiving for her brother’s life, but was a well timed political statement. She does this public act, just a short walk away from Jerusalem’s Eastern Gate, where the Messiah (anointed one) is expected to enter. She does it knowing that the thousands of pilgrims camping nearby, know of Jesus’ miraculous power and will rally to bring him to his throne.


Those who anoint kings, as Samuel did for Saul and David, know that they are doing prophesy. They are doing a dramatic act and speaking sacred words with the intention of revealing to all a previously hidden spiritual reality. Mary isn’t just voting Jesus king or liking him on Facebook, she putting before the court of human reason, the evidence, the smoking gun, of the fact that Jesus is, and always has been, the Lord of all. One word, “Messiah.”


In the same way, when we break bread and share the cup this Thursday, we will be doing prophesy. With a dramatic act and sacred words, we will be proclaiming that Jesus is, and always has been, present with us in our worship. All of the political realities of our church and its declining reputation in the community can’t erase the essential truth, Jesus the Lord of all is here. One word, “Communion.”


Jesus knows what is going on as Mary pours the perfumed oil. He then takes her sacred word and dramatic act and twists it to a new meaning. He says, “She has done this to prepare me for my burial.”   


In spite of this wet blanket, Palm Sunday’s “Jesus is King” Parade still happens. I can’t help but think that Jesus’ response made Mary angry. I picture her pulling her hair out. She goes to the middle of the parade route, with lumps of hair in her hands, ready to throw it in his face. The crowd parts and he looks at her. Seeing the great sadness in his face, she suddenly knows. She shifts gears. Yes, Jesus will die this week. 


Shifting gears doesn’t change spiritual realities. What the prophets know, see, and touch, is still true. We have to let the cogs of our mind grind on that for a while. Don’t make Palm Sunday or Mary’s vision an anomaly. As people who live between two worlds, we have to constantly shift gears. Every day, Jesus is for us both a beaten man and king. Taking on the mind of Christ, we are constantly for the world both humiliated servants and children of the Almighty (Philippians 2:1-11). One word, “Paradox.”

Dagan-bouvert Painting at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum
Lent 6
Palm Sunday