21 March 2010

Lent - Lent 5 Sermon

The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Lent 5 Sermon
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA
John 12:1-8

Mary gets it.  Do we?

Six days before the Passover, Jesus goes to Bethany, where he stays with his friend Lazarus.  Remember Lazarus, that friend of Jesus died, and when his sisters Mary and Martha told Jesus he wept.  Jesus wept the tears that we all weep when we have lost someone that we love. But then, Jesus goes to Lazarus, and raises him from the dead.  It is an early sign of the great rising from the dead that God will do with his son, Jesus.  It is a sign of the in-breaking of the Kingdom, it is an eschatological announcement of Jesus’ own rising from the dead.  It anticipates Jesus own Resurrection.

And so, here in Lazarus’s house, Jesus is given dinner.  Martha served the table, and Lazarus was at the table.  A man who was dead is now alive, and is offering hospitality to Jesus and the other guests.  

At these feasts, the guests would be reclining around the table on pillows, cushions, rugs.  It was a custom of the time that the host, or a member of the host’s family, would wash the feet of those who visited.  For us, the custom seems strange and jarring, but for them, the washing of feet would be as customary as taking someone’s coat and putting it upstairs on the master bed (now, that’s a bit strange, too, when you think of it, no?).

While foot-washing was customary, the anointing of feet with oil was not.  Neither was the use of hair for wiping the feet.  However, Lazarus's guests would know that anointing is what happens before one’s burial.  Mary is preparing Jesus for burial – even before he has given the disciples clear signals about this imminent event.

There are really two ways of viewing this event.  If the viewer sees Jesus as an interesting teacher, or a wordly rebel, or as a kind of Greek Stoic philosopher, it looks strange and perhaps wasteful and even crazy.  A dead man is now alive, offering hospitality.  A woman is wasting expensive oil on a guest’s feet, when water and soap suffice.  Strange, wasteful, crazy.

However, if the viewer sees Jesus as Messiah, as the Son of God, as the human embodiment of God the Father, the creator of heaven and earth, this all looks quite different.  If the viewer sees that this God who has become human in the form of Jesus is about to take up the brokenness, separation, alienation, and sin of the world, and enact the final victory over death itself…well, to eat with one who was dead and brought to life, seems quite possible – likely even.  And to anoint his body with a bit of oil seems but a trifle when we know all that God has done for us.

You see, Mary gets it.  Judas does not.  Judas is hung up on arguments about what else could be done with the oil, when in reality he has no plans to help the poor (or anyone else at all) if the oil were sold.  

Mary gets it.  Judas does not.  Mary sees Jesus for what he is, and Judas dreams of an earthly messiah made in his own image, rather than the Son of God who has brought healing and salvation to the world.  Mary gets it.  Judas does not.

Mary’s act anticipates the final anointing of Jesus before burial, and her act of discipleship in the washing and anointing of Jesus’ feet happens even before Jesus teaches his disciples about serving others through his own washing of their feet at the Last Supper. Mary’s action is the action of loving discipleship.  Just as the raising of Lazarus anticipates God’s raising of Jesus, Mary’s discipleship anticipates the promise of discipleship.  Like the raising of Lazarus, Mary’s act is the eschatological announcement of the promise of discipleship.  Jesus has done this for you, and you should do this for one another.  “Washed their feet and said to them, do you know what I your Lord have done to you?  I have given you example, that so, you also should do.” 

Mary gets it.

1 comment:

節奏 said...

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