Prayer 556 - Wednesday of Holy Week
Holy Week - Wednesday
The city was probably quite full with Passover visitors, so it makes sense that Jesus would stay with friends outside of the city (about a mile and a half). We assume that he is probably staying with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus - the one he has just recently raised from the grave!
On Wednesday, the Gospel writers tell us about a woman who anoints Jesus with expensive perfume while he is dining with friends. We also learn that it is on Wednesday night that Judas makes the decision to betray Jesus.
Let's read that account together this morning.
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
It is hard to understand why the disciples acted so strongly to this woman who anoints Jesus. Her actions are bold, extravagant, and according to Jesus both beautiful and significant.
Think about these things:
Have you ever had someone question the way you worship (or been afraid to worship God in a way that was "too out there"?
Jesus says that this woman will be remembered for this act - what faithful acts of worship do you want to be remembered for?
It is also hard to understand what exactly makes Judas decide, after walking so closely with Christ for years, to betray him for 30 pieces of silver. Still, we know that it was through this betrayal that Christ's very mission on earth was accomplished.
Think about these things:
Just as in the story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, we can say in this story "What you have intended for evil God has used for good!" We can trust that God is accomplishing his purpose despite all the ways we continue to fail or forget him
In the midst of whatever you have going on in your life right now, you can trust that God is able to work good. Ask the Holy Spirit to encourage you in this truth today.
may everything I do today
be my anointing of you;
every thought, word and deed
a pouring out of myself for you,
a gift of service, adoration and thanks.
May every act comfort you,
receive your sacred story,
join me to you in your suffering,
embrace your dying
and prepare for what will follow.
In your death may you be wrapped
in the balm of my own heart.
Give me courage to give my gifts
no matter how others may judge them.
May my life give off the aroma
of gratitude and love.
Accept the anointing of my tears,
my prayers, my being.
In your love
I carry the alabaster jar of my life
into this new day.
- Steve Garnaas Holmes
This day's reading is hard for me, because I see myself in the role of the disciples. The use of resources to help others, for feeding programs like M25, education programs like VBS, and to enable outreach and quality worship like funds spent on upgrading the sound and video capabilities of the church so we can livestream well all make perfect sense, and I see them as money will spent. But when I think about the stained glass window debate days and how I felt then--let's just say I am glad that we had the wisdom of Jonnah Masaka to tell us we needed to care for God's house, just as the Israelites cared for the tabernacle.
So I guess I still struggle with the tension when worship includes pouring out of resources. I'm praying to trust that God will pour more in as we pour out.
I've seen a lot of references to Judas as being so overcome with this tension, but underneath it all, really overcome by his own greed, that he was moved to betray Jesus. I'm glad Kaitlyn says "I don't know why he did it." But I feel that this same betrayal is something I have to resist, as someone who is not always as other-focused as I would like to be--as I know Christ calls each believer to be.
Lord, I want to carry Your peace and the aroma of Your love into this day as I take up the cross. There is excitement at the home of Simon the Leper. He has been healed and there is a celebration party going on. In the midst of the celebration, there are two extreme reactions. Judas begins the plot to betray Him and Mary comes with Kingly spices to anoint Him. Both will have a role in bringing in the Kingdom. Lord, as I breathe deeply to take in the aroma of the perfume, let me have no other agenda than to glorify You today. I hear the words You have spoken,”This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved You.” “The greatest among you must become the servant of all.” I let go of politics and the daily news as motivators. Aware of what is going on around me, I look to you alone for guidance and pray that as Mary poured out her most precious possession, I will pour it my life. Please guide me as I pour out the message You have given me at communion. Prepare my heart and the hearts of all who will hear as we receive communion-the wonderful gift of Your presence which You first gave us in this Holy Week nearly 2000 years ago.
It is hard to understand why Jesus‘ disciples acted so strongly about the woman pouring the oil on Jesus. Especially Judas, who betrays him. They have worked hard for three years as part of his ministry. Perhaps that is why. After working so hard to feed the poor, and in listening to his ministry of giving service to the poor, why is he approving of wasting this valued commodity? Isn’t this going against everything he has taught at three years? So, is it then that Judas says to himself “I have had enough“. Was he so angry that Jesus seems to go against his own teaching did he takes the offer of the chief priests to betray him? I think if we think back in our lives, we can all think of a job or a project that we were so hard at, only to have the boss or others be unappreciative of our hard work? I can remember instances that I was so fed up with someone not appreciating what I did enough to quit a project or job. Perhaps that is the motivation for Judas. We can only surmise why Judas did what he did, but in the end he was a part of god‘s plan to accomplish The ministry of Jesus. Sometimes we do not understand why God allows some things to happen, but we need to except God‘s wisdom in the ways he accomplishes his tasks.
Ah, Susan! My thoughts are similar to yours! Amen, sister! Thankfully, we are here, today, continuing to worship God together surrounded by our brothers and sisters in Christ!
Just as Mary is being remembered as honoring Jesus with this costly perfume, I want to be remembered as honoring Jesus with authentic worship from my heart, authentic praise, honor and glory, authentic giver to the poor. I don't want any one to doubt my love for Christ and what's He's done for me. I enjoy giving and helping those in need. May this continue until I'm taken home to be with my Lord and saviour.
The essence of worshipping Christ is to regard Him with utmost love respect and devotion and to be willing to sacrifice to Him what is most precious.
I love your dichotomy between Jesus' response to the woman with the alabaster jar and His response to the frustration of the disciples. I've thought a lot about Judas as you've revealed the tension between Jesus and some recent actions with the disciples. On Sunday, when you discussed their response to the children, I could feel the tension. Here are the 12 named apostles, who were chosen by Him to begin his ministry, and he has given them hard lessons and rebuked them for their faith in several difficult situations over many months of dedication. And yet, Jesus allows others to seemingly just do as they will, like the woman who simply approaches him and extravagantly pours the perfume over him. I know I might be the one to say, "Hey, wait a minute." Perhaps this was the last straw for Judas, the tension was too much. I can only imagine, because he has not yet seen Jesus to His fulfillment of God's plan. I hope I can discern the will of God, in confusing and frustrating times like these. Like, why do some, people who don't even worship at our church, get to run the garden and I'm told I can't garden there even after the pastors approve my plan and I find grant money to improve the garden? It's at times like these that I know I have to look forward to where God wants to use me next.
Please let my actions today anoint God's plan in my life, and let me rest assured that he will use whatever I pour out to Him to fulfill my mission with Him as a Kingdom builder.