Being invited to dinner is never a minor deal. Sitting at the table with others is such a gift we often take for granted. To spend the time around the table means something – someone has poured out their love before those that have gathered – there is a bonding, a new way of seeing someone – the table brings those who might not come together otherwise in a single space at a single time. It is so much more than a meal. This one was even more unique.
I was invited to the house of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. They are well known in town, especially now. Lazarus has become something of a legend – I guess that is what happens when you are raised from the dead. Everyone wants to see him, touch him and know that he is real. Since my family has been friends with them for years, it just seems like old times to me. They are the family you know will answer the door if you knock in the middle of the night. They can be counted on. They carry such love and compassion that you can’t help but admire them. To be invited to dinner was fun and something I couldn’t wait to take part.
Martha made the most fantastic meal – though she is known for her ability to cook. The aroma from her kitchen lets you know that this meal will be memorable. She knows how to take fresh ingredients and put them together in such a way that your taste buds water just walking through the door. She had been working on this meal all day. You know just by the spread that she had on the table. Martha is known for going all out, but she really outdid herself this night. It was her offering to Jesus. They seemed to know him so much better than most. This family had been so close with Jesus for years. I had only heard of him through whispers and gossip. But to see him ride in on a donkey was quite different than I would have imagined. He was definitely unique.
After we finished the meal, Mary – she had held on to Jesus’ every word – did something I have not seen done before. We are a modest family much like this one. We have food to eat, but not a lot of extra for anything else. Mary brings out the most fragrant, sweet perfume that I have ever smelled. It was entrancing. All eyes were on Mary – she stopped all conversation. Martha had an offering of a meal. Mary has an offering of anointing. This perfume was pure and unique. It was the kind you reserved for the best of the best – if you had it at all. I felt like I was in the presence of royalty as she began to anoint Jesus’ feet and delicately, carefully wipe them with her hair. It was an experience that took my breath away – such humility and love poured out with every movement. She seemed to know something. These 3 seemed to know something that none of the rest of us understood. They seemed to be preparing Jesus for something. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was like they knew this was the last time they would have dinner with him, ever. It was as if they were preparing to see him for the last time.
One of the men with Jesus had something to say about the cost of the perfume. Jesus put him in his place pretty quickly. This man apparently didn’t get what was going on. He seemed to be even more clueless than I was. All I can say is that this was the most powerful meal I had ever taken part. This was a meal to remember.
*As we move through Holy Week, on this Monday we remember the meal where Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. But I don’t want to forget the other offerings there as well. We tend to focus solely on Mary’s anointing because it drew so much attention. It was costly and it cost her to give of what she had to do this. I am not dismissing the extravagance that she has gone through to prepare Jesus for what is ahead. It is beautiful and moving. But there is also the offering of Martha’s meal. She had prepared for this day as well. And there was the fellowship with Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus, that literally owed his life to Jesus. This family had a special bond with Jesus that cannot be explained in words. It is as if they understood him without him speaking a word. The fellowship, the meal, the anointing – all offerings to the One that would soon make the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus was not alone in this last journey – not at this meal. His friends loved him and seemed to understand in some small way that there was more to come.
What offerings do we have for Jesus on this Monday of Holy Week? What do we have to give? We may not think there is anything we have to offer – we are shut up in a home or confined to a job that is essential. How can we give any sort of offering? Maybe, just maybe, we give of what we have. I think of Jesus teaching that when you have fed, clothed, sheltered, visited the least of these, you have done it for him. While we might not visit in person, we can still check on others, encourage others, pray for others. Love is possible even if not in person. What offering do you have for Jesus? When it comes from our heart, from a deep place of love – it is exactly what Jesus is seeking. May our offerings bring love, hope and joy this Holy Monday.
Blessings to you and your offerings!
The focus scripture today is John 12:1-11
12 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[a] 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[b] 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[c] 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.