“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.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.“
– John 12:1-11
In this cozy home the smell of Passover dinner envelopes all who are present. For sure this was a meal to honor Jesus so we can be certain all the stops were pulled out. But the ease and joy of those gathered is dissipated when Mary breaks open a jar of expensive perfume and begins lathering it on Jesus…with her hair!
Two smells, wonderful food and pure perfume, food to celebrate life and nard for a burial, the aroma of life and the stench of death. Today it is tempting to celebrate and honor Jesus but he will be dead within the week. I think our proclivity to avoid Jesus death on Palm Sunday is really an avoidance of our own death. Oh how we want to wave the palm branches and shout hosanna and oh how we want to host a dinner to honor Jesus. But if there is anything we must come to terms with on Palm Sunday it is that hope itself will soon die.
Ironically we see Lazarus reclining with Jesus. The one who was dead is now alive and Jesus, the one who is Life itself will soon die. And in this scene we have Judas and the large crowd who came to see Jesus and Lazarus. We are not unlike these people. Like Judas we are concerned with legitimizing Jesus. We use service to the poor for our own political gain and we hoard resourcing hoping that the more we have the more God may be glorified.
Like the crowds, we too want to see a good show and what better show could there be then a dead person being raise to life. But the reality of this scene, the reality of Palm Sunday is that Life itself is about to die, and will miss it if we assume Jesus just wants another party.
“For on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.”
A few days from now this verse will no longer be true because a dead person doesn’t offer much in terms of faith…or so we assume. Jesus is about to die and this Invitation extends to us, to me, to you.
So what meal are you cooking up? What do you assume Jesus wants from you? What if Jesus simply wants to be with you in your death and only asks that you’d be with him in his? What if Jesus only request this week is that you’d see him, see what he’s going though and in your own soul acknowledge that you bear his image – the image of a God who suffers.
The temptation this week is to plan for a party, but inwardly we know a funeral is coming and more deeply we know that’s what’s needed. We’ve tried living better. We tried living harder. We’ve tried living more like Jesus and we all know it’s not done a damn thing to change our lives. It seems that maybe the only way to eternal life may be through death.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.