March 23, 2018
Mark 13:32 - 14:11
We’re back once more to the refusal to schedule the collision of God’s world into this world, the coming of the Messiah – or second coming. We’re told nobody knows, not even the angels or the Son. So be alert. The world needs more lerts…
The idea of surprise is illustrated – the cat’s away, the mice may play, but what if something happens, and you’re not ready – or worse. What if the watchman sleeps? What if the kids are having too big a party? Keep awake.
It’s not only Jerusalem, but 2 days before Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. Historical fact, or a convenience in the story to match Jesus to Moses and Exodus, Jesus and the lamb whose blood on the doorposts saved Israel from the final plague of the death of the firstborn?
Religious leaders still want to kill him, but don’t want a popular public fuss. They’d rather make him disappear - a too familiar tale in insurrections.
Back in suburban Bethany, at the house of Simon the (former) leper, a woman anoints him with extravagant ointment. Usually you’d do this to a body before burial – that is, before putting it in a tomb for a year to rot down to bones you could put in an ossuary.
Notice, slowly, what this is not – not Mary, not Mary Magdalene, not a prostitute using her hair. In this early version of the story, it’s not even exactly Judas who complains that the money was wasted and could have been used.
Jesus’ line that ‘you will always have the poor with you’ gets lots of play. Mark carries on in a less quoted bit, ‘and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish’. The opportunity to anoint Jesus before his death was now or never.
This is the first apostle - a woman, proclaiming by a gesture of generosity. Remember her.
Judas goes to sell out Jesus – fewer details in this bit than you remember?
‘But about that day or hour no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Beware, keep alert;
for you do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man going on a journey,
when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge,
each with his work,
and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
Therefore, keep awake—
for you do not know when the master of the house will come,
in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,
or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.
And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’
It was two days before the Passover
and the festival of Unleavened Bread.
The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way
to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him;
for they said,
‘Not during the festival,
or there may be a riot among the people.’
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,
as he sat at the table,
a woman came with an alabaster jar
of very costly ointment of nard,
and she broke open the jar
and poured the ointment on his head.
But some were there
who said to one another in anger,
‘ Why was the ointment wasted in this way?
For this ointment could have been sold
for more than three hundred denarii,
and the money given to the poor.’
And they scolded her.
But Jesus said,
‘Let her alone;
why do you trouble her?
She has performed a good service for me.
For you always have the poor with you,
and you can show kindness to them
whenever you wish;
but you will not always have me.
She has done what she could;
she has anointed my body beforehand
for its burial.
Truly I tell you,
wherever the good news is proclaimed
in the whole world,
what she has done
will be told in remembrance of her.’
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money.
So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.