WALKING with JESUS; HOLY WEEK MEDITATION for APRIL 8, 2020

Wednesday: Matthew 26:1-16; Mark 14:1-11; Luke 22:1-6; John 11:47-53 (NRSV)

Yesterday's reflections and meditation may have felt rushed and somewhat undeveloped. To be honest, and transparent… I was rushed! My intent was to have the reflections ready for uploading to our website by 5pm, but I couldn’t get it completed. To my surprise, I ended up writing in the style of the Gospel of Mark! Mark writes a fast-paced Gospel. In fact, Mark uses the word immediately 42 times in the text to hurry the narrative along. Thus, his story is absent of essential details such as where Jesus is from, why was he born, didactic moments to explain a miracle, and in-depth conversations with those he encountered.

Mark was not interested in illuminating the proof of Jesus's identity, unlike Matthew's emphasis on Jesus's fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Mark does not focus on making a subtle, yet meaningful sociological social justice statement or condemnation of the powerful like Luke. Mark was not interested in revealing to the world Jesus's true relationship and connectivity to the Father like John. For Mark, Jesus is a mystery who is only known by faith and personal experience. It is believed Mark wrote with a specific target audience in mind: those who were being persecuted as a result of their faith in Jesus. Thus, Mark's Gospel was not written to evangelize or persuade potential converts to follow Jesus. Quite the contrary, his intended audience already KNEW Jesus, and they were, in fact, believers. Mark's purpose in writing this Gospel was to encourage, and assure believers of their faith with a cautionary caveat: are you sure you know him? For your assurance is based on 1) your personal encounter with him, and 2) your stamina to endure until the end. Mark simply wanted to emphasize the active, public ministry of Jesus as a reminder to the persecuted this is the same Jesus who met and saved their souls. Perhaps they can find someone in his narrative who reminds them of themselves. Mark is not interested in proving anything; it's the task of the reader to check ourselves to see if Jesus is genuine in our lives and hearts. So, who is the audience Mark had in mind? YOU, the reader!

Following Mark 14, and Matthew 26, the Gospel writers are clear; these events took place on Wednesday, two days before the festival of Unleavened Bread, or Passover. Mark and Matthew place emphasis on the chief priests and scribes who were looking for a way to arrest Jesus before Friday night. If Jesus, who has become a crowd-pleasing revolutionary who doesn’t mind stirring up trouble, is taken into custody while the Jews were celebrating their release from Egypt, Passover, Jewish authorities feared an uprising among the general population which would be difficult to quell. After all, Passover is a celebration of their deliverance from and liberation out of bondage. Jesus, the revolutionary, was on the move; he had the favor of the crowd to begin an uprising against Roman authority, and the overly demanding Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests, and scribes who were also complicit. The general population did not feel represented by this pompous brood of leaders. They thought the Jewish leadership assisted the Romans with oppressing the people. Thus, the general population always had an eye and an ear towards anyone they felt could lead them out from under the authority of Roman and Jewish leadership. They were looking for another revolutionary to rise up as in the days of the Book of Judges, and as seen in the days of Judas Maccabeus; see I, II, III, IV Maccabees in the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Texts found in some study Bibles, and used in Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions.

On Wednesday, Jesus is in Bethany, in the house of a leper named Simon. He is where? He is in the home of a leper? Jesus was doing something absolutely forbidden of any pious Jew, let alone a religious figure. How dare he? Didn't he realize being in the house with the leper he too would be ceremonially unclean according to Jewish law?

Reflection: As recorded in this episode, Jesus can show up in places deemed to be un-redeemable. Have you ever experienced anything in your life's journey where you once thought you were not redeemable? What changed your mind and your heart? Jesus shows up in places where you would not believe he would go. Be careful how you try and set Jesus's travel itinerary and appointments…

While he was there, an unnamed woman crashed the party. She brought a jar of nard, a costly perfume produced by steam distillation of the roots of Nardostachys jatamansi a flowering botanical indigenous to the Himalayas, India, and the far east. This oil was scarce and very difficult to make. She took it and poured the entire jar onto Jesus's head. The disciples, suggesting all of them, reacted by describing her actions as a waste. Then, Mark and Matthew connected this to preparing Jesus for his burial.

Reflection: This woman was not recognized by her name, but by her actions. Are you willing to do something for the Lord without name recognition? Are you willing to get it done without being identified? Search your heart and the motivations behind your actions, asking yourself, "Would I do this ________, if no one ever knew my name?" Your honest answer will tell you who you are trying to glorify.

Luke does not provide exacting detail in Ch. 22. His agenda was on something else - Judas's betrayal. Judas’s falling in line with the desire of the chief priests and scribes to find a way to arrest Jesus. John seems to be in another world working on a different timeline and surrounding events all together. John says six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany to the home of Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead. While there, Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha had a dinner prepared for Jesus to celebrate what Jesus had done for their brother. According to John, Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, and anointed Jesus's feet, not his head. She cleaned them with her hair, a very intimate act., causing Judas, rather than all the disciples, to react out of personal greed. John readily paints Judas Iscariot as the main villain in the plot. Why? He was one of the disciples of Jesus. John wants to make the precise point even now, Judas had already turned away from Jesus for selfish intentions.

Reflection: Judas was never uninvited or in Facebook terms, un-friended, by Jesus, despite Jesus knowing what Judas would do. Jesus kept Judas in his circle of disciples, we see, but why? As Jesus is teaching him, Jesus is teaching us, though ev