Yesterday we concluded by asking whether, like Mary, we spend much time with Jesus and try to learn from him. You say, “How can I do that today? Jesus isn’t here. It was easy for Mary. There he was. All she had to do was go and sit at his feet and look up at his face.” Well, I don’t think that’s true. It is true that Jesus was there physically in her day, but he wasn’t always there, at least not always in Bethany.
None of the friends or disciples of Jesus understood what was coming, and therefore there is a certain sense in which for all of these weeks leading up to the crucifixion, Jesus was bearing this great burden alone, with one exception. And that exception, if we’re to take his statement clearly that Mary did this in anticipation of his burial, was Mary herself.
Now, as I said, when Jesus got there the first night they had a supper for him. He must have been tired. He was traveling. We learn from John that he came from the north, instead of passing directly south, which would have brought him to Jerusalem. In circling around he went down into the Jordan Valley as he was coming into or out of Jericho. He healed two blind men, and then from that point he made his way up a rather steep, tiring ascent to Bethany on the slope of the mountain just before you cross over into Jerusalem. So he came, probably, at the end of the day after this journey. His disciples were with him, and his friends had a dinner in the house of this man.
We are turning now to a very great story in Matthew’s Gospel, one recorded in chapter 26, from the very last week of Jesus’ ministry. What an important week that was. It was undoubtedly the most important week in all the long history of the world. We can think even in terms of other great weeks recorded in the Bible. There’s a great week at the very beginning in Genesis, the week of creation. In John’s Gospel there’s an emphasis upon the very first week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. John calls attention to what happened on all of the various days of that week.
And yet, if you think back carefully over not only the life of Christ but over the whole history of the world, there had never been a week more significant than the one to which we come in Matthew 26.
It is most common in our day to look at the birth of Jesus as a charming little story, somewhat like the story of Peter Rabbit or Peter and the Wolf. People who think like this would regard it as something we tell children but that no one is expected to take very seriously. It is just a nice little tale to tell at Christmas.
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