No one knows exactly what happened on this day, but some have called it “The Day of Silence.” For following his earlier somewhat volatile encounters in the Temple, on the Wednesday of that pivotal Passover week long ago it is thought that Jesus retreated to the little village of Bethany on the Mount of Olives, where He often liked to stay with his dear friends, Mary, Martha and their brother, the not-so-late Lazarus.
Back in the city itself, three of the evangelists—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—all tell us that the chief priests and teachers of the Law were busy plotting how to arrest the Teacher, looking for some “sly” or deceitful way for how to get rid of him and kill him, only quietly so that the crowds which had come to Jerusalem for the Feast may not erupt into a riot.
But Jesus stayed home, and we can only imagine what His thoughts must have been as He surely knew that the hour of His death was coming closer. Was He afraid for what was about to happen? Concerned for those who had followed Him? Anxious that the heavenly plan might somehow go awry? Or was He content to simply spend the day with His Father in quiet reflection and prayer? For I rather suspect that Jesus was a whole lot more comfortable with holy silence than most of us usually are.
The evening arrived, and with it an invitation to a dinner given in his honor at the house of Simon the Leper, an individual whom we can easily envision did not entertain all that much at all, given the pariah status in that society which his name would imply.
Nonetheless, it was there at that dinner that a woman named Mary showed up. And before anyone could stop her, she pulled out an alabaster jar containing very expensive perfume which she had brought with her-—no doubt her most valuable possession and one which she had been saving for years-—and then broke it to pour the perfume on the Master’s head and feet.
The treasurer of the little band-—Judas-—objected, of course, indignantly asserting that the perfume could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to “the poor” (though John suggests that Judas sometimes apparently considered himself among that group, helping himself to whatever was put into the common purse whenever he wanted to do so.)
But Jesus said simply, “Leave her alone, for what she has done is a beautiful thing and wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, her story will also be told.” And so it has been, even to this very day.
It causes me to wonder a little, however: on this quiet day before all the busyness of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday begins, are we ready to not only seek to know God’s will in quiet, as Jesus did on this day, but also to bring to the Master whatever we’ve been holding back and hoarding for ourselves?
Indeed, today before another Easter arrives, might it not be a good time for you and me to retreat back to our own Bethany and see just what God may have to say to us as well?