Thursday, March 20, 2008

Holy Week: Mary's Worship -- Jesus' Warning

Jesus left Jerusalem and spent the night in Bethany. That evening he joined Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead, and Simon, whom he had cured of leprosy. We can only imagine how riveting the conversation must have been -- I am doubtful there were any bobble heads fighting off sleep. Wouldn't Lazarus, who had been graveyard dead, have related his experience of three days in the netherworld? Wouldn't everyone who looked upon Simon's extreme makeover be completely dumbfounded?

Don't forget Mary -- the sister of Martha. Her extravagant worship was a show stopper. With trembling, delicate hands she opened an expensive vial of spikenard, and anointed the body of Jesus. With her long, dark, raven hair she wiped away the excess oil and massaged her offering into Jesus' skin -- a never before seen act of purified sensuality and devotion.

The resident treasurer, Judas Iscariot, protested such a waste. Why was this ointment not sold and the money given to the poor? he croaked. His motive had nothing to do with a benevolent heart for the poor -- he was a thief -- he skimmed the offerings at will. Jesus pronounced that Mary's bodacious act of worship would forever be associated with the gospel. Her sweet smelling sacrifice would follow Jesus all the way to the cross -- aromatic scents mixing with the foul odors of blood and sweat -- subtle hints that something beautiful dwelt in his beaten body, and gouged flesh. Mary's brief moment of unbridled, unabashed love would be eternally recounted.

So will ours.

The next day -- famished -- Jesus cursed a fig tree. Immediately, the tree shriveled and went beige. The disciples asked, How did the tree wither so quickly? Jesus responded that it was metaphor -- Leafy and green -- the fig tree produced nothing -- sustained no one! A demonstration of his disdain for show versus substance. One more message comes through loud and clear: The products of faith are world altering, spiritual revolution -- not soul binding, impotent religion.

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