Year A, B, C
Holy Week Monday
April 11, 2022
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: John 12:1-11, The Message or John 12:1-11, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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As we move through Holy Week, it is crucial that we keep before us the historical context that is at the root of these events.
Why are the religious authorities - the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees - so frightened of what Jesus is doing?
The Gospel of John provides the answer (John 11:47-48, NRSV):
So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, "What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation."
Their assessment of what Rome would do if things got out of hand was correct. And in fact when such a revolt did happen 30 years later, the Roman occupiers did destroy the temple and killed thousands of people.
And so as we come to this passage, the authorities have already put out the word that they are searching for Jesus to arrest and execute him, and Jesus has temporarily gone into hiding.
There are 3 foreshadowings in this text:
- The meal: From this point on, all gatherings with his followers are filled with the knowledge that soon, this would be Jesus' last supper.
- The anointing: The execution that awaited Jesus did not allow for a proper burial by the family. Normally an executed person's body was left on the cross for day's or weeks, allowing birds and animals to come and eat at the rotting flesh. The remains would eventually be taken down and cast into a common open grave.
Mary's anointing of Jesus points not only to Jesus' looming death, but also to the extreme cruelty and degradation of his execution. There will be no anointing of the body after his death. The Romans will desecrate Jesus' body after his death.
Jesus will be taken from them forever - or at least that is what the Romans are planning.
- Lazarus: The one whom Jesus loves (John 11:33-36), and the one Jesus has raised from the dead. The raising of Lazarus has been the sign that has finally caused the authorities to resolve to take action to arrest and kill Jesus.
Lazarus' presence with Jesus fills the room with the unfinished sentence:
Just as Lazarus, the one whom Jesus loves, has been raised from the dead by Jesus, so will Jesus, the one whom God loves, be ...
Just how this sentence will be finished is exactly the fear - and the hope - that is in everyone's hearts.
Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, pages 204-208; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See link below.
John 12:1-11 (NRSV)
1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."
9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
John 12:1-11 (The Message)
1 Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. 2 Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. 3 Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus' feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.
4 Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray him, said, 5 "Why wasn't this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces." 6 He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, but also embezzled them.
7 Jesus said, "Let her alone. She's anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you. You don't always have me."
9 Word got out among the Jews that he was back in town. The people came to take a look, not only at Jesus but also at Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead. 10 So the high priests plotted to kill Lazarus 11 because so many of the Jews were going over and believing in Jesus on account of him.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.