Our Place in Bethany

Mary_Anoints_Jesus,_Ilyas_Basim_Khuri_Bazzi_Rahib
A short reflection for Monday of Holy Week, March 26, 2018.  The Gospel is John 12:1-11.

Listen to the sermon HERE.

The Gospel for Monday in Holy Week can stir up strong emotions.  But the genius of the way St. John tells the story invites us almost to take sides, to notice which character with whom we might most identify.

There’s Lazarus, who has just been raised from the dead. He probably just wanted a nice, quiet meal with his friends and family, and how nice that Jesus could stop by on his way to Jerusalem for the Passover.  And now, Mary had to get all dramatic and Judas had to say something, and then Jesus got serious all of a sudden and the whole mood changed.

There’s Mary, who (we know from other stories) is inclined to listen to Jesus and hear what he’s really saying in a way that most people miss.  She’s the mystic in the bunch, and something deep down told her that this might be the last time she would see Jesus.  The expensive oil might seem extravagant, but something about Jesus, about this night, about the movement of God in and around these lives—it just seemed right, and so she followed her passion.

You might identify with Martha, Mary’s sister.  Martha gets things done: keeps the house going, get the food, puts it on the table, cleans up—she’s that person.  Sometimes Mary gets on her nerves, but she also sort of wishes she could sometimes slow down like Mary, sit still, and really hear what Jesus is saying.  But whenever she tries, something else pops into her head—Is Jesus staying the night?  If so, where’s he sleeping? Should she tell the disciples that she doesn’t trust Judas, or mind her own business?  And then, she’s always worried about Lazarus.  They almost lost him recently and he hasn’t yet gained full strength.

Judas is the outsider.  His nickname, “Iscariot” means “from the city,” or “Judas, the city-boy.”  This is how the other disciples—all from Galilee—though of him. And so, he’d gotten used to his role.  He would guard the money and make sure it lasted. He would make sure it wasn’t wasted, because Jesus kept making pronouncements and promises that this ministry simply couldn’t afford.  Someone needed to keep an eye on things.

In the midst of all of this, Jesus makes it clear that whatever else they might be concerned with, Mary is closest to the truth—they won’t always have Jesus, or at least, he suggests that the bond with him (which is to say, the bond with God) is the most important thing.  Everything else can and should be adjusted so that our love for God.

And so, on this Monday of Holy Week, it might be interesting for us to think about which of the characters in tonight’s Gospel we most identify with, and then pray that God would help us move more closely to Jesus.

If you’re like Lazarus, maybe understand that Jesus as the priority is more important than a stress-free evening.
If you’re like Mary, follow your passion, but see if you can bring others along, too.
If you’re like Martha, pray that God would take away the stress and worry and show you how to pray and move closer.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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