I decided to start in the gospels at Palm Sunday, and go through to the end of each. As I turned to Palm Sunday the day after attending the Ash Wednesday service at my church, I thought to myself, This feels like I am jumping ahead of the Lenten season...reading Palm Sunday now? I was just marked with the ashes to remind me of my lowly, dust-derived state desperately in need of a Savior and have 33 days until Palm Sunday.
But with the beauty of verse mapping, and the Holy Spirit, I discovered that I was in the exact place of the Bible that I needed to be for the ashes to truly gain significance.
I actually went way before the gospels, to the prophesy of Palm Sunday--Zechariah 9:9. And somehow, in my study, within the verses before and after, I discovered the ash, the marking that had been on my forehead, the symbol used for men and women in the past who were described in the same way as Christ upon the donkey:
Lowly. Humble. Poor. Afflicted.
symbolism that seemed to be just between the words I studied. I kept searching, and I wondered if I was making it up. But I know, there is something more...something so beautiful and mysterious that to find it would dig deeper than I had ever gone. Maybe deeper than anyone has ever gone. And that's when I became resolute in my study, and surrendered the curiosity to mystery. Maybe there was nothing there. But I doubt that. Only because God has taught me that He truly is even more grand than what is written in the black and white of a page. Verse mapping Zechariah gave me a feeling of rubbing through the black and white to discover a new color beneath the page...a color nobody has ever seen. A color that I couldn't see but knew could be there.
And it really all started with the obedience of a church, filling a man-made tradition, or two, to revere a Holy God. Ash Wednesday and Lent have become something treasured in my heart this year...more than ever before.
The pastor was clear in stating that Ash Wednesday is not found in the Bible. That we keep this tradition because it adds to our walk in Christ, and reminds us who we are and Who He is.
But in my verse mapping on Palm Sunday, I discovered more to the ash and the tradition. The ashes are a humanity-old symbol--something used time and again throughout Scripture. The ashes are the black of a human heart in mourning, the dust of a dry, pitiful soul, and the outward symbol of a lowly, afflicted man in need of a Savior...a Savior who came to us, lowly and afflicted.