Psalms, Palms, and Perfume

This coming Friday night, we will gather in darkened chapels, feeling the hopeless loss of the disciples as they hid in borrowed homes in Jerusalem. For three years, they had traveled with this Man, long days on hot, hungry roads. They had scuffled like kindergarteners about who would sit next to the Teacher. They were scandalized by the Jesus’ interactions with undesirables–the Canaanite, the Samaritan, the tax collector. They were exhilarated by peace in the storm-tossed boat; they saw the blind open their eyes and danced as the paralyzed leaped for joy. They ate loaves handed out by the Bread of Life.

Did they sing the Psalms of Ascent as they climbed up over the Mount of Olives?

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 122.1)

I lift my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? (Psalm 121.1)

The Lord will keep you from all evil, He will keep your life. (Psalm 121.7)

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. (Psalm 126.1)

The palm branches, the donkey, the crowds shouting Hosanna, singing “Save now, Lord!” The wafting perfume reminding them of Mary’s prodigal gratitude. Judas weaving his secret deceit. The promises of the prophets coming true right before their eyes.

Surely the joy of the pilgrimage was heightened by the thrill of the Teacher’s powerful display in the temple, by the strange, heady days of reunion in Bethany with Lazarus. The teaching was exhilarating and obtuse to them in turns, but Jesus seemed to be in control. Can you just imagine how the disciples must have grinned as Jesus brilliantly silenced his critics?

And they were together. The Teacher and His disciples. That was enough.

But the tension was building to a fever pitch. Singing pilgrims poured into the city. The Roman guards were nervous. Robbers worked the highways going up to Jerusalem, cutting short the songs of the pilgrims.

O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption! (Psalm 130.7)

Jesus began to avoid the crowds, counting the minutes until He, the Lamb of God, would become the righteous refuge for all who would believe.

Do you know this story? Do you walk through your days in the wonder of it all? Do you high-five with the disciples, reveling in the just answer of the Messiah. Do you jostle through your crowded days to get closer to His words? Do the songs of the redemption multiply your joy? Do you see yourself as the felon on the cross next to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Or are these pages humdrum to you? Are you deceived and deceiving like Judas, jingling your thirty pieces of silver, having enslaved your soul to materialism or prestige? Can you anticipate the joy of Mary as she clung to the newly perfumed, risen Lord?

Friday is coming. . .and so is Sunday! Come join the pilgrims:

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,

which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,

so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 125.1-2)

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