Lazarus

Day 2 of lent: John 12:1-11

My Grandma and I were close. I loved her so much. She grew up during the Depression, the child of Polish immigrants. She was thrifty. She and my grandfather were experts at working hard, investing wisely and saving lots of money. They were determined not to be a burden to society or on their only child, my Dad. My grandmother would carefully fold gift wrap paper after opening a present and store it in a drawer in her guest bedroom dresser. She used ugly dishes from the 70’s. Her carpet, once brown, had faded to a very odd orange shade. It was still clean and functional, so she didn’t need to replace it. She took care of what she had.

And she lavished her son and grandchildren with treats at restaurants, and Christmas and birthday gifts.She started a saving account for me and deposited a generous amount every year into that account. She helped my parents when money was very tight with me in college, my mother earning her Master’s degree, and my two siblings still at home. Family was very important to her.

My grandma died just after I married my husband. As we were sorting through boxes in her closet, I was stunned to discover BEAUTIFUL dishes. White, with silver flowers etched around the edges. Delicate matching tea cups with whimsical handles. I found handy kitchen tools, still in their original packaging, stored away for 30 years. I discovered a Margarita Blender, the most coveted of the white elephant gift exchange, that she had triumphantly won. Still in the original packaging, stashed in the hall closet. I couldn’t believe that she had lived with so much beauty and treasure hidden around her. I feel sad that my Grandma was afraid to use these beautiful things because they might break. They might become faded. They might lose their wonder out of the box. Or they might be needed in the future, so don’t touch them today!

I think of Mary, Martha and Jesus, when I think of those beautiful untouched items.

6 days before Passover. Passover was the night Jesus was arrested. Less than a week before the beginning of the end.

And what is Jesus doing? Visiting friends. Lazarus, his friend, who he raised from the dead. Martha, who was responsible with the housework and a wonderful hostess. Mary, who loved Jesus.

While Martha was serving the men reclining at the table, Mary poured expensive perfume, VERY expensive perfume, on Jesus’ feet. She washed his feet with her hair. What prompted this? Was there discussion about what was to come? Was Mary just so moved by Jesus’ presence that she felt compelled to pour her most prized possession on her Lord? I wish we knew more.

Here’s some good commentary on this, found at Bible gateway.

Jesus interprets Mary’s actions as preparation for his upcoming burial. It wasn’t a huge secret that the Roman authorities were waiting to trap, arrest and crucify Jesus.

Today, we are preparing for the death of another beloved family member. This family member is in Hospice care, dying from cancer. My husband and our daughters recently traveled to visit her. While they were there, they spent a lot of time talking with her, playing games, watching movies, talking about books. We made the decision to spend our resources visiting her while she was alive, not waiting for a funeral. We probably will not travel back for the funeral, but we have comfort that we could pay her honor and show our love in this life.

I have a feeling Mary felt the same–let the perfume honor Jesus the Christ while he is alive in our midst, not waiting for “someday” to pull out the good stuff.

Let my life be filled with sharing the good stuff, not saving it for a “just in case” or “someday.” Let us all love each other today, let our guard down, pursuing God every day, not just on Sundays. Not just at the end of life. Share the “good stuff”.

 

Lent

I usually fail when I give up something. I am spontaneous and a poor planner, so when I’ve given up chocolate, for instance–I will find myself mindlessly munching on a kid’s valentines day treat or sharing a chocolate cake with a friend. Oops!

So this year, I have decided to ONLY have dessert when I’m reading my Bible. This encourages me to anticipate the sweetness of God’s Word with the dessert I will get to enjoy. And It limits me to certain times and reminds me of my commitment to the Lord when I am feeling a little mindless munching onset.

The verse this morning is: Matthew 21:1-11.

I was trying to picture the awkward ride it would be on a donkey and a colt. Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary explains that “asses” (donkey isn’t listed in my edition of Interpreter’s) were used regularly as riding animals, even with prominent people (Judges 10:4, 12:1, 1 Sam 25:20). It’s not a war horse, obviously, but a peaceful ride. Jesus came not to fight with humanity but to bring peace! It is people–the very ones he came to save–who created war and division with the Savior and between each other.

Those people who sang in the streets “Hosanna!” while lusting for revolution and change, overthrow of government, retaliation for their persecution by Romans, with no thought for what Jesus was showing them in every word and deed.

I always thought Hosanna meant “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Again, according to Interpreter’s, this is also found in Psalm 118, and is translated “Save us, we beseech thee.” 118:25 : “Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!” is repeated in the Feast of Tabernacles (a common Jewish ritual) and as it is repeated, worship participants waved branches of myrtle, willow and palm.

In light of this, it seems that the Jewish people of Jesus’ time would have a very clear indicator based on their scripture that the donkey was symbolic of peaceful Royal entry to claim the city, and their cry of “Hosanna!” reflective of the Jews’ longing to be rescued from Roman oppression.

Psalm 118 continues with the popular refrain “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,. . . The Lord is God and he has given us light. . . .” ending with “O give thanks  to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Jesus came not only to correct earthly injustice but also to save us from our own sinful nature–from ourselves. I imagine the people had great expectations for this King, perhaps hoping he would come in on a donkey kind of like Helen of Troy, lulling the Romans into a false state of comfort before overthrowing them.

If they are anything like me, it was hard to see their own hard heartedness and sinful hearts. They wanted freedom from human problems. Jesus provided freedom for all eternity–would they ever understand or accept that?