For centuries, Christians have combined the celebration of Palm Sunday with the reading of the Passion Story. I did not grow up in a church that did this. We had “Hallelujah’s” on Palm Sunday as Jesus rides triumphally into Jerusalem, and then “Christ is Risen Indeed” on Easter Sunday. In between, there was nothing. But our tradition is to set together these two sets of narratives to drive home the stark reality of how easily we humans can go from ‘Hallelujah!’ to ‘Crucify him!’ within days. The reading takes about 25 minutes. It is the only time each year that we read the entire Passion Story, and so well worth listening to or watching.
Today is the Monday of Holy Week. We read the story (John 12:1-11) of a dinner party hosted by Lazarus (whom Jesus had raised from the dead) and his sisters, Mary and Martha. During the dinner, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with extremely expensive perfume and is reprimanded by Judas, who wants the money for himself. Meanwhile, crowds gather around the house, not only to see Jesus, but also to see Lazarus – the man back from the dead. And the chief priests plot to kill Lazarus, because his resurrection was adding to Jesus’ popularity.
In the midst of all this turmoil, Jesus is a quiet, strong, protective, light-filled centre. It is towards and into this centre that we should move when life’s challenges build up around us.
I invite you to watch the reading of the Gospel from John 12:1-11, which starts at about 14 minutes into the service. And the sermon starts at about 22 minutes and runs for about 23 minutes. This is a visual sermon, mapped out on a flipchart, so you really do need to watch it and not just listen to it. May you place yourself in the centre of Christ, in his light and peace – the best place to be!