Welcome, friends! In the New Testament Gospel of Luke 24:1-12, we find an account of women approaching the grave of Jesus, only to find an empty tomb. Today, people search for reality in all kinds of empty places. There is, however, hope, because Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Click the videos below and let us enjoy and be in awe that Jesus is alive!
May the glory and the promise of this joyous time of year bring peace and happiness to you and those you hold most dear.
And may Christ, Our Risen Savior, always be there by your side to bless you most abundantly and be your loving guide. Amen.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, the man he had raised from death. They prepared a dinner for him there, which Martha helped serve; Lazarus was one of those who were sitting at the table with Jesus. Then Mary took a whole pint of a very expensive perfume made of pure nard, poured it on Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The sweet smell of the perfume filled the whole house. One of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot—the one who was going to betray him—said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would help himself from it.
But Jesus said, “Leave her alone! Let her keep what she has for the day of my burial. You will always have poor people with you, but you will not always have me.”
A large number of people heard that Jesus was in Bethany, so they went there, not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from death.So, the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus too, because on his account many Jews were rejecting them and believing in Jesus. (Good News Translation)
Jesus entered Jerusalem, the day before, on Sunday, with the people waving and lying down palm branches, along with shouts of “hosanna!” Although Jesus had been speaking about his death, weeks before his triumphal entry, most folks were clueless as to what was about to happen.
But Mary Magdalene did. She truly listened to the Master. Her spiritual ears and eyes were fully opened to the significance of this week. Mary was completely aware.
A woman with a sordid background, Mary Magdalene had her life thoroughly transformed through meeting Jesus. She became a follower, in every sense of the word. As an attentive disciple, Mary knew her Lord. She observed every little thing about Jesus, hung on every word, knew each voice inflection and every gesture.
Now, near the end of Christ’s earthly life, and only days from being arrested, tried, tortured, and killed, Mary sensed what was happening. She saw the pained affect on her Lord’s face that no one else noticed. She was cognizant of what was happening, while the others seemed clueless.
Mary’s own brokenness cracked open to her the true reality of life, the real meaning of the unfolding days, and the deep gravity of this week.
The surface event itself is a touching and tender moment in history. This woman, whom everyone knew as a damaged person, took a high-end perfume, and broke the entire thing open.
Mary then proceeded to anoint Christ’s feet with it. You can imagine the aroma filling the house with an expensive perfume for all to smell. Giving what she had to Jesus, Mary demonstrated the path of true discipleship.
Mary’s act of faith in anointing Jesus was deeply symbolic:
The broken jar of perfume shows us the brokenness of Mary and our need to be broken. (Matthew 5:3-4)
Mary used an extraordinary amount of perfume, picturing her overflowing love for Jesus. (John 20:1-18)
Mary applied the perfume to Jesus with her hair (hair is a cultural symbol of submission and respect). (1 Corinthians 11:14)
The perfume directs us to the death of Jesus. (John 19:38-42)
The perfume highlights for us the aroma of Christ to the world. (2 Corinthians 2:15-17)
There is more to Judas than his words about perfume; he is not actually concerned for the poor. (Matthew 26:15)
Judas and Mary serve as spiritual contrasts: Mary opens herself to the sweet aroma of Christ; Judas just plain stinks.
The perfume presents a powerful picture of the upcoming death of Christ, for those with eyes to see; he was broken and poured out for our salvation. (Luke 23:26-27:12)
Christianity was never meant to be a surface religion which merely runs skin deep. The follower of Christ is meant for deep personal transformation, inside and out, so that there is genuine healing, spiritual health, and authentic concern for the poor and needy.
Keeping up appearances is what the Judas’s of this world do. But the Mary’s among us dramatically point others to Jesus with their tears, humility, vulnerability, openness, and love.
In our contemporary social and cultural landscape of fragmented human ecology, our first step toward wholeness and integrity begins with a posture of giving everything we have – body, soul, and spirit – to the Lord Jesus.
Sometimes it takes a woman to show us the way.
On this Monday of Holy Week, a tangible act may help us to express and deepen our faith. Take a bottle of unopened perfume or cologne, pour it completely out into a used tin can, and set the can in a central place in your home, just for the day* The aroma will likely linger into the next few days, as well. Let the smell be a continual reminder of both the sadness of death and the joy of salvation.
Loving Lord Jesus, my Savior, and my friend, you have gone before us and pioneered deliverance from an empty way of life and into a life of grace and gratitude. May I and all your followers emulate the path of Mary and realize the true freedom which comes from emptying oneself out for you. Amen.
*When you are ready, it is appropriate to dispose of the perfume by pouring it down the drain. Even this can be a ritual in which you visualize discarding your old life in order to take up a new one on Easter Sunday.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress. Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away. I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness. Sin has drained my strength; I am wasting away from within. I am scorned by all my enemies and despised by my neighbors— even my friends are afraid to come near me. When they see me on the street, they run the other way. I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot. I have heard the many rumors about me, and I am surrounded by terror. My enemies conspire against me, plotting to take my life.
But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly. Let your favor shine on your servant. In your unfailing love, rescue me. (New Living Translation)
One of my parishioners from years ago had seen hard combat in Italy during World War II. He saw his best friend killed, right next to him. I still remember his story and what he said in conclusion to it, in his own sage way: “In my experience, war is a very poor way of dealing with problems.”
And yet, we sometimes find ourselves embedded in circumstances we neither wanted nor asked for. Just ask the Ukrainians. No one puts their name on a sign-up sheet for suffering. Yet not a one of us can avoid it.
Pain comes in all kinds of forms. Maybe the worst kind of suffering is the wound inflicted from others looking down at you when you’re already experiencing trouble and damaged emotions.
Whether it is an ethnic or racial group of people facing ridicule, anger, and even beatings or death; or whether it is refugees trying to survive the ravages of war, the physical effects of pain can oftentimes be secondary to the primary hurt experienced within the spirit.
“Suffering is part of the human condition, and it comes to us all. The key is how we react to it, either turning away from God in anger and bitterness or growing closer to Him in trust and confidence.”
The Old Testament character, David, knew first-hand about suffering through hard circumstances. There were times when he felt completely overwhelmed by the evil machinations of people trying to take his life. If we could put ourselves in David’s sandals, we can understand why he was worn-out to the point of not sleeping, not eating well, even with a hint of paranoia.
David responded to his seemingly impossible situation by entrusting himself to God. He truly believed he was in the Lord’s hands – and that fact was David’s go-to truth.
Crossing over into the New Testament Gospels, Jesus uttered his last words on the cruel cross from this today’s psalm: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
The cross was an obvious place of extreme bodily pain. That wretched pain, however, was dwarfed by the great spiritual pain of holding the entire world’s hurts and their curse of separation. The stress of both body and soul must have been crushing for Jesus.
Yet, there was a strength of assurance, for Jesus, in the eye of that pain – the confidence of knowing he was in good hands, just like David’s confidence a millennium before.
There are times in life when we all struggle with why particular afflictions happen to us, in whatever form they might take in us.
It is in the situation of being forgotten by others that we are most remembered by God.
It is within the crucible of trouble that God is the expert in deliverance.
It is when others revile us, say terrible things about us, and talk behind our backs that God comes alongside and whispers words of grace and steadfast love to us.
It is whenever life is downright hard that we see a soft-hearted God standing to help us and hold us.
While we are feeling our awful suffering, God is carefully crafting within us resilience through the rejection, empathy in our loneliness, purpose because of the trauma, forgiveness out of the shame, courage from having been failed, and self-awareness in the wake of emotional devastation.
The biblical psalms are the consummate place to go when we are most in need. They provide the means to lift heartfelt prayers whenever our own words fail us.
The psalms give us structure and meaning when the world around us makes no sense.
The psalms do not always give us answers to our most vexing questions; they do, however, point us to the God who is attentive to the least, the lost, and the lonely.
Together, as people sharing the human condition of suffering, we cry out, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy on us and grant us your peace. Amen.”
Welcome, friends! The Great Commission of Jesus is to go and make other disciples. To “go” doesn’t exclusively mean to travel to another place or overseas. It mostly involves the willingness to get up, go, and walk across the street, or even just across the room. Click the videos below and let us consider together how we can be the heart, hands, and feet of Jesus to the folks around us….
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.