To have a meal at a friend's house is not an especially earth shattering occasion generally-We can be sure that Jesus had gone to Mary and Martha's for meals before-but when it is someone whom you have recently brought back to life from the grave that is something else! No wonder that the crowds flocked to see Jesus and Lazarus! Jesus was heading for Jerusalem and everyone close to Him knew how dangerous that was when He had effectively been banned from the holy city.
The sisters were aware to some degree that this was a momentous meeting and so both demonstrated their love for Jesus in the way they knew best: Martha cooking and serving a meal for what must have been for around twenty people when you add in the women who followed Jesus as well as the Twelve. Mary loved extravagantly and, in effect, poured out her life savings onto Jesus' feet: real love does not consider the cost and it is likely that Jesus would have still smelt of the perfume six days later when He hung on the cross.
We see in this passage then the pure love of the sisters, the calculating coldness of Judas Iscariot and the wickedness of the Jewish religious leaders: their hatred of Jesus driving them to consider killing Lazarus too! Where do you stand? Again, we cannot sit on the fence with Jesus, His character forces us to make a decision regarding Him.
The Jewish festival of Passover was the greatest of all festivals. It has been calculated from the lambs slain at one feast that they would have been around two million people coming together to praise God for His deliverance! This was a time for crowds and two are mentioned in this passage-one accompanying Jesus from Bethany and one surging out from Jerusalem to see Him. The shout which went up (from Psalm 118 v 25, 26) was of greeting Jesus as King; this shout only went up when there was a great victory. The crowd had received Jesus as the Messiah! The religious leaders despaired. Jesus had dramatically enacted the fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy in Zechariah 9 v 9. He came as King, but He had subverted the normal mode of entry into Jerusalem by the conquering King by riding not on a horse, but on a donkey and then on a young donkey, His feet trailing the ground as He rode. The song words in 'Meekness and Majesty' come to mind: 'Wisdom unsearchable God the invisible
Love indestructible in frailty appears
Lord of infinity stooping so tenderly
Lifts our humanity to the heights of His throne.'