Is 42:1-7; Ps 27:1-3,13,14; Jn 12:1-11
We spend this whole week gazing upon the cross of Christ. We look with love upon the Faithful Servant of the LORD about whom Isaiah the Prophet sings. We look with love upon Christ the Suffering Servant of the LORD and recall every detail of his last week before his execution and resurrection. The Psalm has us singing the song of trust that the Lord Jesus sang as he prayed these words throughout his life of temple worship. Can our hearts echo this trust? “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” We remember every detail described in the gospel. We remember the evildoers who surrounded him day in and day out; they were looking for details too, for details of his behavior or teaching that they could use to devour his flesh and consume him in their hate and jealousy. The Lord Jesus could not help notice his enemies stumbling and falling all around him. His heart was not fearful even as their numbers grew. Even though they took him on in public debate waging a war of words; even then did he trust the Father. Though meager the support from his followers, the Lord Jesus found bountiful support from the Father and he looked forward to again being in the glory of that eternal love. It is his absolute and total love and trust for the Father that gives us the courage to wait, to be stouthearted and wait for the LORD to accomplish his will in our lives. Even in the midst of the cross, even when we bear our share in the sufferings of Christ, we wait; we do not turn away; we do not fear.
Isaiah lived in a world of unspeakable violence. The Servant of the LORD, Jesus, lived in a world that did not respect gentleness. Yet, into this brutal and harsh world comes a faithful servant of the LORD upon whom the very Breath of God, the Holy Spirit hovers. This is the same Breath of the LORD that moved over the chaos of the early creation and brought order and growth. This Holy Spirit gives the Servant of the LORD justice for the nations. A justice that is established first in the human heart so the Servant need not cry out or shout or make his voice heard in the streets. All he needs to do is to tell the story of mercy and bounty. The hearts of his listeners are moved, as if on their own, to love justice and work for peace. This mighty servant of the LORD need not break a bruised and wounded soul to prove his power to influence the community. Even the smoldering wick is not quenched; rather he fans into flame the deepest hope and longing of the human heart for the justice and peace that only the LORD can provide. The wildest lands bordering on the dangerous oceans, the very coastlands have waited to hear the servant speak the truth. Above the roaring of the seas his voice is heard the very Breath of the LORD proclaims through his faithful servant the good news: “I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations.” This Servant of the LORD is the Lord Jesus who has identified us with himself, with his relationship with the Father and with his mission to heal and save all the nations. As members of the Body of Christ we are to “open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” Such is the full meaning of our dying and rising with Christ the Lord. Baptized into his cross and glory we have an unspeakable dignity and no one can take away our true life in Christ, no foe, no enemy, human or spiritual. We are so confident in Christ that we need not imitate the ways of our brutal and harsh world. We need not force the truth upon anyone. The truth of the Father’s love for us in Christ is so attractive and so convincing because it is still spoken by the same Breath of the Lord that hovered over the Lord Jesus during his prayer and ministry. That Holy Spirit breaths through us and the Word we speak is truly liberation for every human heart.
Four friends of the Lord Jesus are featured in today’s gospel account for the sixth day before the Passover. He is surrounded by three faithful friends, who become dangerous, and one dangerous friend, who becomes deadly. Martha, Mary and Lazarus provide fellowship and food for their dear friend Jesus. In their desire to honor the Lord who had brought Lazarus back to life, their feast attracted a large crowd of Jews from the chief priests. Their public scrutiny of the Lord Jesus continued and when they saw how many Jews had turned away and believed in Jesus because of miracle of Lazarus, they plotted to kill the Lord and his friend Lazarus. These faithful friends were dangerous to the Lord Jesus because they unwittingly played into the hands of his enemies and gave them the straw that broke the camel’s back. Martha and Mary’s feast for their friend Jesus only made it more obvious that the seventh sign was powerful and threatening to the chief priests and those in power. Judas was a dangerous friend of the Lord Jesus because he was a zealot, and he was convinced that the only way to hasten the arrival of the Kingdom of God was to revolt against the oppressive Roman government. These political solutions to social and spiritual evil were completely inadequate and totally rejected by the Lord Jesus. Judas leaves the Passover Supper to prepare for the betrayal of the Lord. At this meal several days earlier we catch a glimpse of his conflicted heart. The motives of Judas are questioned in the gospel when he reprimands Mary for wasting “oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair.” On the surface his concern is that the money used to buy this oil could have been used for charity. However, his concern for the poor is less than pure. He seems to be using the poor to keep the disciples purse full so that as the group treasurer he could use the money for whatever he wanted. Even today, seeming concern for the poor is used to hide greed and self-seeking. Judas hides his mixed motivation behind a public display of devotion to the needy. The Lord Jesus defends Mary’s behavior without at all diminishing the need for true concern and charity toward the economically deprived. However, the irony of this table dialogue reveals a false split between costly devotion and costly service. Both love of Christ and love of his deprived brothers and sisters are necessary for any true friend and disciple. Growing closer to the Lord Jesus through our Holy Week devotions only makes greater demands of our hearts to be compassionate with others as the Lord Jesus has been compassionate with us. To buy into the false dichotomy Judas is pushing is to use Christianity to hide our own efforts to save ourselves and ignore the demands of intimacy by pouring our love out upon the Christ, the Anointed One, who pours out his blood without restraint so that we could live an abundant life.