The Rev. Suzi Holding
I remember that evening….spring was in the air…there were signs of new growth, new life everywhere. Flowers were beginning to push their green stems out of the ground, their buds just emerging. There was just a hint of a fresh, sweet fragrance in the air…the long gray winter was finally over.
We had just finished dinner. Jesus had once again regaled us with stories…what an amazing story teller he was. But his stories were not just fanciful imaginings…there was always some nugget of truth, something that caught your attention and you started to see things in a different way, your perceptions challenged and then changed…..
My brother Lazarus was with us….now there was a truth that some found hard to believe…just a few weeks earlier we thought we had lost him forever. I still have trouble believing what I saw…that he came out of that tomb, after being in it for four days…still wrapped in the grave cloths…I could not believe my eyes!
We had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus had taken ill…and I was so disappointed when he didn’t come immediately. Jesus was like family…Lazarus had been like a brother to him. Our own parents had died years before and we cherished that sense of extended family with him. He had stayed in our home, broke bread with us many times over the past three years. I thought he would drop everything and come to be with us and with Lazarus. But he didn’t. I know it wasn’t safe for him to come. People in power and positions of influence were disturbed by things he was saying and how more and more people were gathering to hear him. Already some had tried to stone him at one of these gathering. His disciples told him not to come….
and then he came. But it was too late. Lazarus was already dead. So many people had come to our house to mourn with us. When my sister Martha heard that Jesus was coming she ran out to greet him…I stayed back with our friends…that is until Martha came back telling me Jesus was asking for me…I rushed out, and everybody at the house followed me. When I saw him I knelt at his feet….crying…and he asked where Lazarus had been laid... there were tears in his eyes…
When he saw the cave where Lazarus has been laid, he told some people to move the stone that was in front of it…Martha looked at him and said, it is really going to stink if you do that….he has been dead four days…he looked at her and said…Believe,…Trust me…
As they moved away the stone, Jesus looked up and prayed…Father…and then he looked at the cave, raise his voice and said “Lazarus come out!”……and he did!
I can still hardy believe it happened…Lazarus was alive again…and there he was, sitting with us that night having dinner… I reached over to pinch him just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it…he laughed at me. And rolled his eyes. Typical big brother!
When dinner was over, Martha was busy as usual cleaning up after the meal…there had been quite a few of us at dinner that evening so there was much to do.
I had taken my usual spot at Jesus feet, listening and hanging on his every word…and Martha gave me the side eye, as usual! Women were not supposed to be with the men when they were having their important after dinner conversations. Jesus didn’t mind though.
Those days things seemed so tense…having known Jesus and going around with him…the things he said and did.…he was making some people very nervous…even within our own cohort…Judas was not happy, He grumbled and complained. Judas was so tightly wound….like energy contained, ready to burst forth at any moment….like a bomb ready to explode… he had such a fervor for the resistance, a zeal, to get rid of the Roman Occupiers by any means possible, to call to account the religious authorities that collaborated with them….he was so impatient and agitated.
The men were talking about men things…and then conversation shifted. The disciples were worried. Hostility had been mounting since Jesus spoke Lazarus back to life. The intensity of the danger to him had increased. There were rumors that the authorities were plotting against him
The men were saying he shouldn’t go into nearby Jerusalem,…the leaders in the city were after him.
Judas and the others were trying to tell Jesus what to do….Jesus was unwavering. His face was set…
and then I knew…he was well aware of what awaited him in Jerusalem and he was bound and determined to walk right into it. My heart began to break…because I knew he wasn’t coming back.
And I thought about that special oil in the alabaster jar that I kept in the other room…a very exceptional and expensive oil from the East, a dark golden oil…with healing properties…some people used it to anoint the dead. We had a goodly amount.
I got up and got it and sat once again by him.
I remember pouring the oil on his feet. I did not want to hold back. Jesus had taught us about God’s generosity, about God’s love and grace poured out lavishly on us, God’s beloved…and so I poured out that exceptional oil on those feet…those worn and calloused feet as I held them tenderly in my hand.
And I looked up and saw he was looking at me…the way that only he could look at you…as if he knew you to the very core of your being… warts and all, and yet loved you fully, deeply, without restraint. I looked into those eyes of his…oh my they were the color of rich amber honey…
And I started to cry…my tears falling on those feet,…I used my hair to wipe them away…and it felt like time stood still…and the future and all that would happen to Jesus would be kept at bay.
Judas broke the moment…ranted…by saying “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denari and the money given to the poor?” Well he was right …that oil would fetch a high price on the market…well over a year’s worth of wages….and yes, that money could be given to help the poor. For a moment I felt ashamed, that I had stupidly wasted that precious oil…Judas was good at saying things that could make you feel like you were never doing enough…that whatever you did, no matter how much you tried…it wasn’t enough.
There were those among us who were beginning to distrust Judas…he kept the common purse…and money seemed to be missing from it more and more…it was easy to suspect him.
And then Jesus told him to leave me alone….to just back off…Jesus knew what I had done and why…he knew what it cost me…not just the oil, but the aching in my heart, my grief and my tears.
The scent of that oil lingered in the house well after everyone had left for the evening…a wonderful earthy, musky fragrance, a wonderful reminder of love.
The following week is still a blur…the treachery and the betrayal, the way he was taken and executed…I am still in shock.
I remember the way he looked at me…the way he looked at all of us, even Judas….with such love…for it all to end in such horror is inconceivable….I will remember him by loving…as he loved us….fully, deeply, without restraint.
Some are saying that they have seen him…could it be???
Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12: 1-8