Monthly Archives: April, 2005

The Witness

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

Jesus’ power is apparent, not only because of the miraculous events he influenced, but also because he claims equality with God – a blasphemous notion to the Jewish leader’s point of view. Lazarus is quite symbolic of Jesus’ power, an actual living witness. If he is put to death, the witness is silenced, and he becomes less of a risk of attracting more Jewish followers. Because “many Jews were going away and believing in Jesus”, the Jewish leaders were threatened, and wanted to put Jesus and his witness to death.

If there is a call to ‘heart’ in this passage, it must be with poor old Lazarus – the power of the witness.

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Focus of Love

John 12: 1-8

This passage depicts Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointing Jesus with expensive oil, sacrificing great expense to show her adoration. Earlier, Jesus had commended her for sitting near him and listening. Mary openly offers sacrifice and adulation to Jesus, whom she recognized as God incarnate, over spending on the poor or even her family. Jesus praises Mary for this, although I cannot believe he was speaking from his own point of view as Jesus when he did this, but rather from the point of view of God. Jesus was not attached to his body or to any luxury or extravagance, and from this viewpoint would likely not have allowed this lavishness to be bestowed upon him. Perhaps the symbolism of the extravagance here is to encourage us to love God as unselfishly as possible, to bestow upon God all that which we feel is most precious to us – our attention and our tenderness.

Giving to the poor, humanitarian efforts are obviously virtuous, yet they do not supercede our love and gratitude to God. God is most worthy of our self sacrificing and of receiving our most reverent focus of love.

reflections on John 12:9-11

Not much to say here — certianly not of a religious or spiritual nature.

It is a short transitional passage leading up to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. From a narrative standpoint it escalates the dramatic tension. From the old us vs. them motif that John seems to revel in — its another nail in the Pharisee’s coffin lid — so to speak.

I also thing in its anachronistic. It presents the leaders of the Jewish people so upset about folks deserting the faith to follow Jesus that they are willing to arrange an assassination of Lazarus over it.

But at this point — Jesus is a Jewish preacher. I’m not saying the events did not happen. I’m saying teh way they are framed seems to me to refelct the perspective of a later point in history — when Jews and Christians are at least starting see themselves as different faiths or at least different communities.

It is important to me that Christians not lose their sense of Jewish roots. Passages like this encourage us to see “the Jews” as a different group hostile to our “true faith”. Christians run into trouble everytime we forget that we are a minor Jewish sect.

Plot to Kill Jesus (oops — Lazarus)

Because this is a short passage I have offered multiple translations:

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.

AV 1611

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So 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 putting their faith in him.

NIV

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

Revised Standard

Jesus’ feet / C

Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was filled with the scent of the ointment.

… this is the same Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet while Martha did housework. She seems to be quite the devotee.

Then Judas Iscariot — one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him-said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contents.

… John looks back after the crucifixion and reads into Judas’ words the motivation he assumes must have been in a traitor’s heart? Perhaps Judas was jelouse of the close relationship between Jesus and Mary.

So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; let her keep it for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’

… I’ve heard this line used by some to justify not working against poverty … what’s the point, it will always be with us. I disagree, as Jesus often told people to give to the poor. Maybe Jesus, forseeing his death, can be allowed a moment to sadly treasure the devotion of Mary in the face of his mortality … he was human as well as divine.

BTW – the online version of the New American bible says about the annointing of J’s feet and his response … Jesus’ response reflects the rabbinical discussion of what was the greatest act of mercy, almsgiving or burying the dead. Those who favored proper burial of the dead thought it an essential condition for sharing in the resurrection.

Give the Money to the Poor (John 12:1-8)

I look at a story like this and ask — what is this doing here? John has included this story to make some sort of point. What is going on?

Mary buys an expensive jar of ointment to anoint Jesus’ feet. Judas Iscariot objects — give the money to the poor. John says Judas was only being greedy — he was the treasurer and was embezzling funds. Jesus blesses Mary’s action — this anointing is an anointing for burial — a prophetic act heralding his crucifixion.

It seems likely to me there was tension in the early Christian community about money and about the common purse. Luke mentions this in Acts. The disciples saw a common purse — sharing all possessions in common — as the most faithful application of the gospel. Problems developed. In Acts we hear that the disciples — Peter, James, and John were not being just in their distribution of funds to the poor. The poor they knew personally were getting the lion share. And here in John — the call to not waste money on expensive extravagances is placed on the lips of Judas Iscariot – the one who betrayed Jesus — and just for good measure — is accused of theft.

Clearly there were deep resentments about money running through these communities.

How we make out money and our expenditures spiritual is an interesting question for me. I look at my life — I look at what we have done without — and the extravagances we have spent on. My television set is 18 years old. I do not own a car. But I do buy a new computer every few years. I pay for high speed internet connections. I buy books. I do not tithe. We go to restaurants fairly frequently. I eat too much chocolate. The choices we make about how we will spend our money reflects who we are.

You can weep and fast and pray but who you are and what you believe is writ large on your VISA statement.

The Poor? (John 12:1-8)

“You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.” But we do have him, and the poor.

Matthew 25:35:
“I was an hungred [hungry], and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” and 25:40:
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Friends, he is here, with us!!!

Housekeeping/Roll Call

Just thought I’d put in a place for folks to check in. I know a few folks have reduced their activities here. I’m only posting the scripture passages on Wednesday and Sunday — to give more reflection time for folks. Wondering if anything else can be done to make this a more helpful place.

I know for myself — this is getting a bit wearing in at least two ways. Firstly, I’m finding my comments getting increasingly neck up. I’m not sure how much of this is the material and how much of this is me. I was hoping a pattern of less frequent posting would allow me to be more reflective and more meditative in my approach but it ain’t happening.

Secondly, I’m finding the basic message of this gospel is getting repetitive. I also know the gospel is gearing up for the entry into Jerusalem with Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet so I am expecting things to change that way soon.

Also — its almost May. Is anyone planning a summer vacation far away from the WWW? Do we need to retire the study for July or August?

Where is everyone else on this?

Mary Anoints Jesus (John 12:1-8)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was filled with the scent of the ointment.

Then Judas Iscariot — one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him-said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contents.

So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; let her keep it for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’

John 11: 45-57 / Crystal

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

… one of the reasons I think Jesus really did literally raise Lazarus from the dead is because of the reaction of the religious leaders to this act … many rabbis healed the sick and if this had just been another healing I doubt it would have driven them to the conclusion that Jesus was the messiah (or was being perceived as the messiah) and must die.

If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come 10 and take away both our land and our nation.

… ironically, their solution to this terrible possibility didn’t avert it, as the Romans did come in after Jesus’ death.

it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish

… scapegoat stuff, I guess.

since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.

… did the high priest forsee that Jesus’ death would unite the world? That seems odd.