Monday of Holy Week Isaiah 42:1-9; John 12:1-11 My disciples are all tremendously excited, but I’m exhausted, and the week has really only just started. What a day it was…
Monday of Holy Week
Isaiah 42:1-9; John 12:1-11
My disciples are all tremendously excited, but I’m exhausted, and the week has really only just started. What a day it was yesterday. Shouting, acclamation, adoration, all that public show of …. Well, show of what, exactly? I wonder. Love, from that crowd? Possibly, but what sort of love? Expectation? Certainly a lot of that. Hyped up emotional crowd hysteria? Plenty of that.
Time to step back, take as many deep breaths as possible and think about what might happen next. It’s the days before the Passover, always a dangerous time for religious intensity. Fanaticism, even. And that welcome into Jerusalem yesterday, that’s going to have the Romans on high alert; they’re twitchy enough already about such big crowds all packed together. Anything could happen.
I’m glad I retreated to Bethany, somewhere safe and quiet, to be with trusted friends who won’t expect me to do anything, who will just let me be. I can feel that this might well be decision time. People will be expecting me to do something dramatic, they all know the scriptures about the triumphant king, humble and riding on a donkey, The problem is that they want a different sort of king than my Father has asked me to be.
My friends here in Bethany are wonderful. If I need to be still, everyone’s happy to just all sit together, without needing to chat or fuss. But we also have good times, even parties. Lazarus is very reserved, and Martha is always offering me food. And then there’s Mary – Mariamme as some people call her. She’s Martha’s sister but was living in Magdala when I first met her. She was in a bad way, convinced that she had demons chasing her, living inside her. Everyone called her a weird woman, wouldn’t have anything to do with her; and of course no man wanted to marry her.
She came to see me, heard that I could heal people. She was at the end of her strength, told me I was her last resort to be made whole. Well…I threw the demons out of her by accepting her, not saying she was evil, or damaged, or sinful – because it was the demons covering up her real self, making her be like that. And then showing her as much love as I could. It was real healing for her. My love built a protecting wall around her, the demons went away because love is stronger than anything else, isn’t it.
Having all that wildly expensive perfume poured all over me after dinner was unexpected, but it was such a beautiful, totally selfless act to show everyone how much she loved me – almost like she was doing a religious ritual. It wasn’t anything to do with how expensive it was, would have had the same special meaning for me if it had been plain olive oil.
Judas was really mean about it, he always values money more than anything else. He thought it would please me if he said that the money Mary spent on the perfume should have been given to the poor. I don’t think Judas really cares about the poor, and there’s so many of them. It sounded phoney; he might have been really concerned but I’m sure he wanted to spend it on little luxuries for us instead. Or himself, maybe. Compensation for all those times we had to sleep rough and were almost beggars on the road, sort of selfish, I thought.
But then, I’m never really sure what Judas is thinking. How little he understands what I’ve been trying to teach everyone during my whole ministry. Sadly there will always be poor people, both poor because they have no money and the poor who have no hope, nobody to care about them, poor in spirit. Money will help people who can’t afford to buy food, but will be useless for anyone who has those empty spaces inside them, the ones who need to feel valued, to be loved. Love is the most precious thing. We can offer it to each other, but nobody can buy it. Not real love.
The Romans and the insecure, jealous Temple people won’t let me live much longer. They’ll find some way of getting rid of me because I can’t stop spreading my messages about my Father’s Kingdom. The Temple priests demand to be in total control. It’s dangerous for anyone like me who helps people to think about God, how God wants us to live and find real happiness. It’s not all about blindly following lots and lots of rules. So many burdens! The Law is important, but worshipping God isn’t only about following rules. If rules are the only things, then it’s like being in prison. I want to unlock the prison doors, give people freedom to know the light instead of darkness. The two great commandments about loving God and each other are the way out of darkness. They say it all, really.
At dinner I had to remind Judas that I won’t always be around to keep talking with people about love. Poor Judas. He needs to be needed, to feel important. I don’t think anyone has ever loved him. I hope he finds his own right path to follow.
Mary….well, what do I hope for Mary? Apart from always being safe and loved? I hope she’ll remember to bring perfume to do my anointing when I die.
Tuesday of Holy Week
Isaiah 49:1-7; John 12:20-36
It’s strange, this waiting around, unsettling. I do enjoy being with friends, but I hope I’m not putting them in danger, staying with them when there’s been so much going on, the uncertainty of the past few days, and some of the group getting scared about what the authorities might be thinking. Or planning to do.
Not all the central group of disciples are here, of course; the house in Bethany is small and isn’t luxurious, but it’s cosy and warm and there’s endless hospitality. Even if Martha complains that she does most of the housework. No – it’s only Martha, Mary, Lazarus and me actually staying here right now, but most of my original group were around for almost the entire day. Very tiring, always feeling like I have to shepherd them, help them understand what the real meaning is of the stories I tell. How are they ever going to be able to spread my message when they’re on their own? I pray for them, all the time.
And then there were those others, foreigners, who turned up today. Philip said they asked to see me – I can only think that they must have heard me teaching in Galilee. Philip speaks Greek better than I do so he and Andrew heard them talking and came to find me, to introduce them. My words, my ideas must have stayed in their minds enough for them to make the long trip from Galilee to Jerusalem, just to see me.
Have to avoid being proud about it, though. My words are really what my Father gives me to say and I can then pass that message on to anyone who has ears to hear. Not me, in my own power. Everyone thinks that I’m doing my work by myself, my own inspiration, my own ideas. No – I’m a channel for the Father, I don’t work in my own strength, but only what I receive from my Father.
Isn’t it interesting, how sometimes you believe that you’re sowing ideas in the hope that they’ll take root and grow into something much bigger. And the original idea might die away but it can produce much, much more than just that single first thought. Like scattering seeds. The seed I put in the ground of people’s minds has to die, to change from being just that one single seed and sprout to make a plant with a hundred seeds. The plant comes from that one seed which is now dead, it’s sacrificed itself to make something bigger and better.
I suppose it’s what I was saying earlier, who and what we are now has to change in order to let us become more completely alive people. If we don’t change and grow then we’ll die. We have to die to the ways which produce no fruit, and be reborn into the Kingdom of heavenly abundance and life in all its fulness. To leave behind the darkness of spiritual emptiness, grow like a plant towards the life-giving light. The light and life of my Father’s Kingdom which I’ve been trying to illuminate, all persons being equally valuable, not based on one person lording it over everyone else.
We can’t get to that kingdom if we think we’re so perfect now that we can close our eyes to knowing when we go wrong. We need to love ourselves enough to have the strength to change, want to live in the light even though that light might show us our sins, our wrongdoings. But of course, how can we find out what those sins are unless we can trust God enough to have the divine light shine on them?
I’m sure someone will try to remember what I’ve been teaching, but dress it up a bit when they pass on my stories to other people; and talk about when I said we had to hate ourselves. Did they think I wanted to make us feel guilty all the time? About what? Oh, take your pick…people think we should feel guilty about breaking the Sabbath, that’s the usual one, and failing to follow all of the hundreds of rules which the Temple priests use to put huge burdens on everyone. Making the darkness of guilt and sin the message instead of the light of love.
Hating ourselves is an exaggeration, of course. I needed to grab people’s attention by saying something sounding outrageous. I think what I mean is never being satisfied with who we are now, always be open to change, want to become the best we can possibly be. But we do have to love ourselves and admit our faults at the same time, How can we love our neighbour if we can’t love ourselves?
I’m worn out, it’s hard work being always on call, talking, teaching, even praying with people. I need even more time for myself, to prepare and be strong for what I’m sure are going to be crucial and difficult days ahead. How can I give my group, my beloved friends and all who listen to my words, something which will always remind them of me? Remember me? Give them the strength to keep going? I’ll think of something. But what’s most important is remembering to love, trust and wait. And do even more praying. None of them are easy. And I’m not sure which of those is the most difficult.
Wednesday of Holy Week
Isaiah 50:4-9a; John 13:21-32
We’re all still waiting here in Bethany, three days after getting to Jerusalem, but not sure exactly for what. All of us are getting nervous and unsettled – are we going to have the Temple priests or the Roman soldiers finally coming here to get me, after that display last Sunday? It’s been too quiet. Maybe nobody really does know where I am; but after all the excitement and wondering about Lazarus being dead, and then being alive again, not that long ago, you’d think that people would realise that here in Bethany is somewhere I feel at home, safe.
We’re going to move back into the city tomorrow for a meal together, the house in Bethany just isn’t big enough for all of us, and I want all of us to be together before whatever the coming days will bring. There’s a really odd, almost sad atmosphere here. Very different to inside the city, which is just buzzing with expectation. It’s a bit risky, but I need to be in the holy city, Jerusalem. Who can predict events during Passover this year?
Judas has been really jumpy. Not only that nasty comment about Mary and the perfume a couple of nights ago, but his attitude. Has he really been listening to me during the past three years? He’s smart, knows his scripture, but is too self-centred, arrogant at times, to get on with some of the others, makes them feel inferior. I don’t think he genuinely cares about the poor, either the ones with no money or the ones with barren dead spirits. Spiritual poverty.
I know he’s been unhappy ever since I told him I wasn’t his idea of what he thinks a Messiah should be. And I don’t think he ever believed that love – either God’s love or my love – included him. But of course, love is what my Father is all about. Not the breakable, temporary physical human sort, even though that’s important. It’s the love which isn’t selfish, lasts forever, cares more about the one you love than what you might get out of it in return – which may be nothing at all. Like the love of my Father for anyone who wants it. Scripture tells us that, in the beginning, when God made everything, it was all called ‘good’. And God loved all of it.
Mary showed me that unselfish ‘forever’ sort of human love. She didn’t care what people thought about her pouring perfume all over me, what that must have cost her – and not only the financial sacrifice. Then using her own hair to wipe it off my feet! How beautiful that was – and I loved her, always, from the first time she showed up in my life as a broken tormented woman. She said I was the only one who gave her any love at all and it healed her.
My Father asked me to keep on promising, showing, convincing people that the Kingdom was real. It was close to us. We would have to work a bit to find it, but oh, how it would be worth it! I wanted to open my arms wide and take everyone, every thing into them, embrace the whole world and bring it into the joy of knowing my Father’s love. And then showing that love to each other. Isn’t that what both great commandments say, love your God with everything you have, and also love your neighbour as yourself. Except that our neighbours include people we might not like. Or even ones we hate. I said that, didn’t I. Love those who hate you, pray for them.
But love needs to be given to many more people, to the world, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. To teach about it. Even to show the Gentiles that they’re included, that my Father loves them. I changed my mind about people who aren’t like us. When I was in the crowd of Gentiles, with that insistent woman wanting me to heal her daughter, I said my message was only for the children of Israel. Well, her faith in me made me see things in a different light. My Father’s Kingdom is open to everyone. Peter and James and John were horrified. I hope they’ll change their minds as I changed mine, come to believe that I’m right. And yes, I did heal that woman’s daughter.
What do I do about Judas? He’s probably going to try to force me to tell the world that I’m the promised Messiah by going to the Temple priests and letting them know where I am. So be it. I’ll let him go. He would only be hurting himself. I hope he doesn’t regret it later, but whatever he does I’ll still keep loving him. If he betrays me, hands me over to the people who want to shut me up, then that must be part of the Father’s plan. Even if he gets money for telling the authorities where I am, I’ll forgive him.
It’s a different sort of betrayal, not being able to trust. Judas hasn’t let anyone get close to him. The real tragedy with Judas is that I don’t think he’s ever believed I love him along with all the others, almost like he feels he doesn’t deserve to be loved. It’s so sad if he really believes that. And I’m not sure if any of them except Mary really understand this sort of love. Maybe the only way of showing how to love and trust without boundaries, completely, clearly, is to be willing to give up everything, even my life.
Your will be done, Father. Not mine. Whatever I do, it’s to glorify you, not myself. I’ll wait. You’ll show me the way and give me the strength to obey you. I think it will all happen soon. I’ll try to be ready. Even to die.
Leslie Spatt ©2022
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