Last night we gathered as friends via video and read John 12:1-11.
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 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.
This was a dinner party the night before the week of His Passion. Certainly Jesus knew what this week would hold. It was the whole reason He had come. This was His big life event. Like the opening night of a broadway show, a superbowl, stanley cup, world series game…
I have a friend who was a pitcher on a college baseball team. He shared about the odd, OCD-like behavior that he and other pitchers shared. There was so much pressure on the pitcher to throw the ball with just the right nuance to create a fastball, curveball, screwball… They would do things like; step up on the mound, spit to the left, stamp their foot three times, look to the left, then the right, wind up and pitch. If anything disturbed the sequence, they would step off the mound and start the process over again. Such pressure of the big moment caused them this strange and precise mechanical behaviour. It helped them manage the stress.
Jesus had gathered for a dinner party where He is honored for His miracle with Lazarus which is recorded in the previous chapter. Here He is, heading into His biggest moment, and He reclines at the table with Lazarus and others.
The air is filled with Mary’s loving act of perfumed worship as well as the rancid stench of Judas' greed. Worship and sin floats in the air for all to breathe. Jesus allows the worship, stills the complaint, and shares the meal with his friends and enemies. We are reminded of the words of the psalmist.
You prepare a table before me
Judas is present at the meal, and in the city around them 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.”
Jesus attends this dinner with no indication of strife or anxiety of any kind. The chapter before we see his tears of compassion. A few days later we will see him sweat like drops of blood. The bible does not hide his emotion. But we do not see it in this passage.
He ministers to Mary by receiving her worship, to Martha by receiving her meal, to Judas but confronting his sin, to Lazarus by celebrating his life, to the other friends in fellowship. Certainly He knew that soon, one of His disciples would betray Him, another would deny Him, all would abandon Him, and the Father would forsake Him. We cannot fully comprehend the pressure that was on Him, yet He continued, ministering to those around Him. Loving them gently while violence awaits Him.
He could do this because He could see beyond the cross to the joy set before Him. He could sing with the Psalmist:
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
Lord, in our anxiety and nervousness of this strange moment, let us find peace in your presence. Let the reminder that we will dwell in Your house forever fill our hearts with much confidence. Let Your love and care remind us that while You had to walk alone, we never will. For You are always with us. While we may keep distance physically from one another, we stay close in heart and in prayer. And Your rod and your staff will comfort us. To You we give our praise!
A shepherd and his journey