“The Road to Jerusalem: The Response” April 7, 2019
“The Road to Jerusalem: the Response”
At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy dud, I have to admit that I miss the old days. In the days before Google and algorithms, advertisers were restricted to things like newspapers and magazines and billboards. Radio and TV ramped things up a bit, but we didn’t mind. Now, in the online economy if you show a slight interest in buying just about anything, look out. Look out, because somehow the whole world knows and they will beat a path to your door. I did a search for socks a few weeks back – I didn’t buy anything, just looked around – but since that moment I have been barraged with ads for every kind of sock you can imagine. It’s a little creepy, but that’s the world we live in today. And so it was that while I was thinking and writing about Jesus and Lazarus and Martha and Mary, an ad popped up out of nowhere this week from a church supply catalog- a place to buy everything from candles to communion wafers – and I surprised myself when it made me laugh out loud. It wasn’t meant to be funny, but somehow reading the headline, “Last chance for discount prices on Easter supplies” just caught me off guard. Somehow, when my mind was focused on one of the most extravagant displays of love and devotion ever, the idea of 10% off our supply of anointing oils seemed totally ridiculous.
(Jn 12:1) Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. What a strange and powerful story, but it is one we need to take to heart. It was the first of the last suppers; it was Jesus saying his final goodbyes on the road to Jerusalem.
The story of the anointing of Jesus was told in all four of the gospels in various forms: in Matthew and Mark, Jesus was in the house of Simon the leper, and in Luke he was at the home of one of the Pharisees; but the end result is always the same: an act of extravagance for the Lord is met with jeers and sneers and a bunch of phony talk about wasting something precious that could have been sold to help the poor. And that’s what it was, plain and simple; an act of extravagance. Forget the fact that this was Mary’s to do with however she pleased. She was most likely saving it Jesus’ burial; Jesus, the one who had brought her own father back from the grave. Forget the fact that it was just not proper for a woman to touch another man that wasn’t her husband. Forget the fact that Judas, who kept the common purse, was upset at good money going to waste – good money he could have gotten his hands on for himself – forget all that.
Instead, let’s embrace this beautiful act of radical hospitality for what it really is: a cry of pain. Part of the experience of Lent has always been to open our hearts to the suffering of Christ and the story of the anointing of Christ has always done that for me. It is like a kick in the gut, it’s personal, and affects me down deep. I mean, who was Lazarus after all? He was no one special. And his daughters Martha and Mary, did they go on to do great things in service to God? Not that we know of. But to Jesus the man, they were friends. They were the kind of friends that always made you feel at home; when you were with them you could let your guard down, you could relax. For Jesus, the man who never really had a place to lay his head, being with them was the closest thing to being human he would know. The one who was about to give his life for the salvation of mankind had stopped by to say goodbye to his closest friends and their response was extravagant, totally off the wall, and beautiful beyond words
We’ve talked about the humanity of Christ and how he suffered in his humanness. I love this story. I don’t have any clever analysis or commentary. I just know that I don’t have any trouble feeling like I am right there with them at that time at that place. It is real to me and it calls me to be thankful for my faith in this extravagant God of ours.
As we partake of the sacrament of Holy Communion this day, I would ask us to be mindful. I would ask us to be mindful of our response to this crazy thing that Jesus offers to us: his body and his blood. And if we find ourselves called to pour out our hearts, let’s be lavish, let’s be extravagant. Let’s dump it all at his feet.
Amen & Shalom