There was a time when Christians gathered as many as seven times a day for corporate prayer. Gradually, it became three. Then two. Then once a day. Eventually, the habit of corporate prayer dwindled in common society so that our common practice of gathering only once a week, on Sunday morning, became the norm. I could sit here and type a whole list of laments about this fact, but my primary concern is that Scripture is just not heard, read and interpreted, very much any more. It has left us Biblically illiterate, and has, imho, caused a lot of our current religious partisanship as loud voices have vied for the role of “The Interpreter of Scripture.”
Anyway, all of that is to say that as we arrive at our lesson from John’s Gospel appointed for Sunday, we begin, in earnest if not in reality, our entree into Holy Week. The story of Jesus’ anointing at Bethany happens on the eve of his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem during an event that we call “Palm Sunday.” It’ll take us two weeks to get from here, through the dramatic events in Jerusalem, to the cross and tomb.
Because of this fact, and in the realization that, while I don’t preach either of the next two Sundays, I will preach 5 times in 13 days, so I should probably begin thinking about those sermons. I printed out lessons, found some helpful commentaries, and realized that last year, I bought a new book that I forgot I owned. Craig A. Evans and N.T. Wright have written what is ostensibly a response to Borg and Crossan’s “The Last Week,” entitled, “Jesus, the Final Days.” In the opening essay, Evans argues that four things took Jesus to the cross, and they have nothing to do with his generally do-goodery or the hypocritical Pharisees and their fear. Evans argues that Jesus ended up dying at the hand of Rome because:
- He entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!”
- He turned the tables in the Temple Court
- The Parable of the Vineyard
- His being anointed in a clearly Messianic way by Mary of Bethany
I found this last point to be particularly interesting, as the political ramifications of this event were lost to me. I recommend this book to my fellow preachers who are looking at the daunting onslaught of Holy Week. After all, if N.T. Wright is on it, then it has to be good.