Note: I’m not sure why this didn’t publish yesterday. Tuesday’s post to follow soon.
Monday in Holy Week brings the story of Jesus at dinner with the newly raised Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. It comes at the heels of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, a story we heard just a little over a week ago. This was the final sign, a miracle that specifically pointed to something, that Jesus performed in John’s Gospel. It seems obvious to us after the fact, but clearly Jesus was preparing the crowd to believe that God could raise someone from the dead. They would need that kind of faith in just a few days.
Here we have the second half of that story, as the presumably recently bathed Lazarus welcomes his rescuer to dinner. While the focus of this story might be on Mary and her jar of nard, Judas and his concern for the poor, or even John’s editorial comments about Judas’ generally unsavory character, what I’m noticing is the chief priests. It would be really easy to see them as simply “the bad guys” in this story, but I can’t help but look upon them with some sympathy.
John tells us that this dinner occurred six days before the Passover. It is the Saturday before what will become Palm Sunday. The crowds are already beginning to gather for the Festival. The heat was turning up as the questions around this Jesus of Nazareth continued to swirl. Could he be the Messiah we’ve been waiting for? Is he just another flash in the pan? What will happen when Pilate and his contingent of soldiers arrive? Will Jesus do something embarrassing? Will his followers try something? The chief priests are in charge of the big picture. Sure, they might have to cut some corners with God in order to keep the larger peace, but that’s their job, isn’t it? As they ponder this new reality in which Jesus is able to raise people from the dead, I can appreciate their growing dread as they watch the pot that they’ve carefully kept at a simmer for decades beginning to wildly boil over.
Now, killing Jesus and, for good measure, Lazarus, certainly isn’t the right way to keep things calm. No one is suggesting that the method they employed is a good one.but As the heat turns up, I’m finding myself associating with the chief priests today. How many of us, and I’m writing this as a freshly minted Rector who’s job it is to keep the bigger picture in perspective, how many of us haven’t from time to time seen an explosive situation brewing and made a stupid decision as a result? The pot is boiling over, tensions are running high, panicked decisions are being made, and it is only Saturday (or Monday on the liturgical calendar).