Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Daily Devotion for Lent 2017 - Day 25, Wednesday

Today's Reading: John 12:1-19 (NRSV)

The anointing of Jesus by a woman varies depending on the gospel.  For John, it is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus and it occurs at their home.  For Mark and Matthew, the woman is unnamed and it occurs at the the house of Simon the leper.  For Luke, the woman is also unnamed but identified as a sinner.  Christian tradition often specified her sin as prostitution.  She was also associated with Mary Magdalene by some but this is a stretch since no biblical sources ever give clues to place them as the same person.

For Luke, this act of anointing becomes an occasion for Jesus to show the proper response of people to the grace of God.  Within Mark, Matthew and John, this foreshadows the passion of Jesus as if he is being prepared for his impending death.

The remark of wastefulness also comes within these three gospels by the disciples and identified specifically as Judas Iscariot in John.  If the ointment did cost three hundred denarii, this was almost a year's wages for a worker and so it was no small thing to do.
Jesus responds in John, "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."  This comment, which also occurs in Mark and Matthew, seems out of character with the ministry of Jesus that is featured in the gospels.

Some see it as a quotation from Deuteronomy 15:11 which reads, "Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, 'Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.'"

Even though we associate Palm Sunday
with Passion Sunday, we don't often
realize the political significance
of waving the palms.
Since the suffering of Jesus identifies God with those who suffer, it may be that our devotion to Jesus should be fixed in a missional understanding of how we might open our hands to those in need.  As Jesus makes his entry into Jerusalem, it is noteworthy that Jesus is supported by the crowds who seek to make him their king.  This puts the life of Jesus at risk from the Roman authorities.

In a sense, their anointing of gracious words also prepares Jesus for his burial.  It makes one consider how veneration and suffering may sometimes go hand in hand.

Prayer for the day:

O God almighty, by whom and before whom we all are brothers and sisters: 
grant us so truly to love one another, that evidently and beyond all doubt we may love you; through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord and brother.  Amen.

            Christina Rossetti, 19th Century, English Poet

Photo by Mary Constance via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

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