Today’s Scripture Passage: Mark 14: 1-25
To read today’s portion of the account of the Passion, click on the below link:
Galilee is behind us. The parade is long over. There are no stars overhead to light our way. The Passion has begun. It’s an odd term, from the Latin passionem, or suffering. It looks similar to the word passive (Latin, passiuus), which definitely doesn’t make sense to us. After all, we’re talking about Jesus! But the words are indeed related. The Passion, this time of suffering and being “handed over”, is a movement from planned and intentional action to no longer being in control. All of Jesus’ actions are accomplished. It is finished. It is a time of waiting–waiting for others’ response, waiting for our response. We are called to enter The Passion, to enter this handing over.
|“Christ in the House of Simon”
Dieric Bouts, 1440’s
Staatlisch Museen, Berlin
And, so, in the first part of The Passion reading, Jesus prepares for what is to come. First, he is anointed. I really like the version that the Gospel writer known as John tells, but this is Mark’s year, so we’ll go with it. You see, John names her. John brings Mary into the story, into a relationship with Jesus. Mary, or whoever this woman is, takes the expensive perfume and pours it onto Jesus. Takes…and pours. Where have we heard that before? It is sacramental. This simple act of holy extravagance brings her into the story, into life. She is forever remembered not because she wasted the oil but because she was part of preparing Jesus to die. With extravagant and self-giving love, she entered The Passion. She poured herself out and handed herself over. I wish I could be like that. I wish I could sit at the feet of Jesus and, without any regard to what is “appropriate” or “expected”, pour everything out. I wish I didn’t hold myself back. I wish I could pour myself out with holy and even wasteful extravagance.
As the time for the Passover meal nears, the disciples begin to prepare and plan for the meal. It would be Jesus’ last. The disciples didn’t seem to know it at the time but this would be the final time that they were all together. Don’t you wander what the conversation was that night? We’d like to imagine that it was rich and deep and profound, that it was prayerful and contemplative, theological and steeped with rabbinical thought, that it was something they would remember. But last words are seldom like that. They are usually profoundly quotidian. Rather than resembling the life that we envision, they usually resemble the life that is. That’s probably what happened that night. There were side conversations about family and acquaintances. There were comments about the weather and whether it might have been unseasonably hot or unseasonably cold that evening. And there were some speculations about the political environment and the tensions that hung in the air even that night. They did not solve the problems of the world. They just ate and drank and sat together.
|“The Last Supper of Christ”
Pieter Jansz.Pourbus, c. 1562-5
And then Jesus takes the bread and pours the wine. Takes…and pours. It is sacramental. Yet another act of holy extravagance that brings us all into the story, into life. But the story’s ending is far from ordinary. And to be part of it, we have to take and pour…We have to become the body and become the blood. We have to take the cup from Jesus, this cup that has been poured out for us.
But behind the scenes, there is darkness and betrayal swirling in our midst. We don’t know what to do with this. It is one of us. It is one whom Jesus loves. It is one who has sat here this night and shared our meal and shared our lives. Oh, please, do not let it be me. As I dip this bread, let me become who I’m supposed to be. Do not let it be me.
The truth is, we cannot be there with Jesus as he prepares to die unless we, too, are preparing for our own. We cannot talk of this handing over unless we can let go of that to which we hold. And we cannot take the bread and the wine unless we make room for it in our lives. Were you there? Were you there as love was poured out? Were you there as Jesus took and poured? Were you there in the betrayal? It is too late to go back. It is too late to change anything. The Kingdom of God waits for you up ahead. But you have to let go. You have to die to self. No longer can we just talk about something else and hope that death will go away. We have to die to live.
So, on this Monday of Holy Week, how would you answer? Were you there as Jesus prepared to die? What part in The Passion did you play? Are you preparing to die? For that is the way that you will live.
Grace and Peace,