Speaker: The Rev. Matthew Hanisian
The Reverend Matthew Hanisian
Monday in Holy Week
March 21, 2016
This story from John’s gospel tonight also occurs in both Matthew and Luke’s gospels, and we hear this same story every Holy Week on Monday, so I would guess that we are pretty familiar with the story. Jesus comes to dinner, Martha does what she does—she serves; Lazarus does what he does, he’s still alive; Judas does what he does: reacts like probably most of us would at what the dark horse-star of the show, Mary does. And Jesus, well, Jesus is always the star and always giving us challenging words and ways to view our lives.
Now, Mary does an unthinkable thing. She dumps a pound of this incredibly aromatic perfume on Jesus’ feet. She does an extravagant and costly and beautiful thing. And that’s great. The spotlight shines on her brightly in this passage—and something tells me Mary liked being the center of attention.
But ohhhh, we are IN times that are out of character, out of the norm in this story let’s not forget. The cast of characters alone is enough to let you know this is not normal ho-hum gathering.
We’ve got Lazarus—the once-I-was-dead, now-I’m-alive guy—is there.
AND, we’ve got The Son of God showing up and a dinner party being thrown. And, crowds of people show up. AND, Mary makes the whole place stink with the incredible amount of perfume that gets dumped on Jesus’ feet.
This is not an average or normal evening in sleepy little Bethany.
But, if you take Mary and Jesus out of the picture then who is the one that’s extravagant and hard-to-believe and all the rest? Lazarus. Lazarus is, for my money, the MOST out of character of the whole bunch.
But, lets stay with Lazarus for a moment. Jesus comes to the dinner party at his house—Lazarus is the host. And, we learn that he sits at table with Jesus. So he wasn’t bed-ridden from his ordeal of being dead and being raised back to new life, he is alive and able to join them at the party. And, it seems, he had a bit of a cult following, or at least a bit like a circus freak, was a curiosity to be seen. And when word gets round that BOTH Jesus AND Lazarus are together in one place, the large crowd comes a-runnin’.
Lazarus isn’t just a sideshow, however. Lazarus is so much of an issue that the powers of the day also plan to put him to death. They feel their positions of power threatened by him and the only solution they can think of is to execute him. How very much like the powers of the world.
But who could blame them really? Every time Lazarus came out of his house, every time he spoke, every day his eyes opened and he awoke from sleep, he was a living rebuke to the powers of fear, might, and commerce. The word commerce should be noted for it’s particularity here: commerce that says things have a cost, there is a transaction—to get what we want we have to pay. Notice how much Lazarus had to pay to receive the love of Jesus that brought him back from the dead. Nothing. But before you go and say he had to give his life in order to be brought back from the dead, you’ll remember that he was sick and died and would have done so anyway, had not the love and power of Jesus changed what was clearly inevitable anyway.
As we come to the second Holy Day of Holy Week I’ll offer a bit of a challenge to us: notice how you feel and act. Notice how others around you act and what motivates them to act in the ways they do. Over the course of this week, try to look more deeply into where the powers of the world act in fear…and where they act in love.
Notice how Judas looks at Mary’s actions with judgment and condemnation without trying to understand the “why” behind what she does. Notice that the powers of the world, and even the powers that are at work in our lives act mostly out of fear. Notice where people feel threatened and the actions they take, the words they say.
I am convinced that in our lives, our actions are motivated more out of fear then out of love. When we operate from the place of, “what’s in it for me,” rather than the place of “what can I give, what do others need,” we are living into the same mode of operations that says, “yeah…and we should kill Lazarus, too.”
However, on the flip side of that same coin, notice where people feel or show love. Notice when they act out of compassion. Notice their actions, their words. Notice when you feel your heart tugged, or when you know what the just and right thing to do is…and you do it.
When we act in love and we seek first to give rather than to take, we are truly inviting the God who raised Lazarus from the dead into our midst.