Monday, April 15th
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for April 15th: Psalm 36:5-11; Isaiah 42:1-9; John 12:1-11; and Hebrews 9:11-15. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today is tax-day in the United States except for Massachusetts and Maine. Our observance of Patriots Day gives us a one-day extension. Patriots Day postpones tax-day; it doesn’t eliminate it.
Today’s Gospel selection looks forwards and backwards. It gives a time reference to the approaching Passover and also takes us back to the raising of Lazarus. In the Lazarus story, this friend of Jesus dies. When Jesus arrives, Lazarus’ sister Martha goes out to meet Him, but Lazarus’ other sister Mary, the Bible says pointedly, stayed at home. Mary was angry and disappointed with Jesus that He did not come sooner and save her brother.
Jesus then raises Lazarus from the dead.
Today’s Gospel selection is the account of their next encounter. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume that would have cost a regular labourer one full year’s worth of wages. She is repenting for staying away from Jesus when Lazarus had died. Her extravagance expresses the deep regret she feels over this past act of desertion and is her even deeper promise to never again leave Jesus, to trust in Him no matter what. Mary may also have sensed the importance of what would happen during the approaching Passover in Jerusalem, and as Jesus says she has prepared His body for burial.
Judas is not at the same place. Judas cannot grasp the uniqueness of Jesus’ life and therefore of Jesus’ death. He will betray Jesus for daring to be more than human. Judas sees Jesus as Teacher, but not as God’s Son, and Teacher is not enough.
Lazarus died and Jesus raised him from the dead, but this only postponed Lazarus’ death. It did not eliminate it. Jesus’ death, on the other hand, conquered death. God raised Him to never die again. This is the mystery the church lays out before us at the start of Holy Week. Can we appreciate extravagantly the person of Christ and embrace the fullness of the transformation that He offers to all of us?
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