The Wild Places Bible Guide – 26
April 15, 2019
Monday, April 15
Jesus’ God-with-us life reaches its climax in the week of his death. This one week in Jesus’ life takes roughly a third of the text in the gospel accounts. We’ll join Jesus for the final two days of this week, sometimes called The Passion, referring to Jesus’ suffering as well as the intensity of the experiences generally.
Mark 14:1-9 (CEB)
It was two days before Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and legal experts through cunning tricks were searching for a way to arrest Jesus and kill him. 2 But they agreed that it shouldn’t happen during the festival; otherwise, there would be an uproar among the people.
3 Jesus was at Bethany visiting the house of Simon, who had a skin disease. During dinner, a woman came in with a vase made of alabaster and containing very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke open the vase and poured the perfume on his head. 4 Some grew angry. They said to each other, “Why waste the perfume? 5 This perfume could have been sold for almost a year’s pay and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.
6 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. 7 You always have the poor with you; and whenever you want, you can do something good for them. But you won’t always have me. 8 She has done what she could. She has anointed my body ahead of time for burial. 9 I tell you the truth that, wherever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.”
Points of Interest
- Mark sets the scene by reminding us of the religious and political significance of this week. It’s a holy week, the city’s population is swelling with pilgrims, and a delegation of Roman soldiers has arrived as well. Crowd control is a concern, and reputations are at stake. The most empowered members of Jesus’ society find his God-with-all-people-in-all-places message threatening to their control and are working out strategy and power angles.
- Meanwhile, Jesus has dinner with his friends – a ragtag group of young men from the countryside, a formerly ill and outcast host, and a woman who loves and respects Jesus immensely and has chosen a complex, intense, and costly way to express that love.
- The unnamed woman’s breaking open of the vase is evocative of so much. She’s emptying her life savings in giving Jesus a costly, extravagant, impractical gift. She’s also treating him like a king, or a priest, or a loved one who has died – these were occasions for anointing in her culture – coronation, ordination, and preparation for burial. Any one of these would be an intense statement to make. But whatever she had in mind, Jesus picks option three, interpreting the anointing as pre-death burial preparation.
- The men argue about the impracticality and waste of the gesture. For what it’s worth, almost every man – other than Jesus – in the Passion narratives comes off poorly. All the women, every one, are devoted and loyal. I’m not telling anyone what to make of this, but it doesn’t seem accidental and does seem noteworthy.
- I can’t unpack all the symbolism and dense language here, but there’s something about Jesus’ explanation that is like communion in reverse. In the bread and the wine, representing Jesus’ body and blood, the good news is embodied and proclaimed – the embodied God/human broken and poured out for us. Here, in preparation, a human gives broken and poured out love to Jesus, and this too is part of how the good news will be embodied and proclaimed.
- There’s some kind of mirroring happening here. As if Jesus’ passion is seeking to call out our own. As if the reaction that best honors Jesus’ suffering is to join him in a broken-open heart – giving more generously, loving more extravagantly. There’s a big heart and a big love opening up here.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray for your church, if you have one, that more and more people would be moved to big-hearted, extravagant love of Jesus and others, thus embodying and announcing the good news everywhere.
Spiritual Exercise of the Week
Toward Courage over Fear – If you’re up for it today, consider for a moment a great fear of yours – a failure, a loss, or trouble you might face, perhaps even your own death. Ask Jesus to assure you that Jesus will be with you should you face this fear. Ask Jesus: how will you be with me in compassion and strength? After a few moments of imaginative prayer, welcoming Jesus’ presence with you, close by praying this short excerpt from the ancient prayer, The Breastplate of Saint Patrick:
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of Christ’s healing with his laughter,
Through the strength of Christ’s teaching with his feasting,
Through the strength of Christ’s crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of Christ’s resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of Christ’s descent for the judgment of doom.