Monday, March 25, 2013

Expecting Easter

Holy Week
John 12:1-11  Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (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.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." 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. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

John, the theologian, wants his readers to discover a renewed Passover. He does this by using the stories of how different people reacted to Jesus. Mary breaks out her expensive perfume and allows its fragrance to express her appreciation for Jesus; Judas’ concern for wastage prevents him from sharing in this loving action of Mary; the Passover pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the Passover smell the perfume and come to satisfy their curiosity; and the religious leaders planned to “keep a lid” the religious experience.

Perhaps this is the story of Easter – some (like Mary) express their love for Jesus in unorthodox ways; some (like Judas) want Easter to be an opportunity to increase their money; some (like the Pilgrims) watch the religious rituals of Easter with curiosity; and some (like the priests) want to ensure that the beliefs and practices of Easter are firmly kept within their theological belief system.

What is your expectation of Easter? Is it possible that God could invite you into a new adventure – where, like Mary, you might have an unorthodox experience that will increase you love for him? 

What attitudes might you have to leave behind in order for this to happen? Might you – like Judas – need to take your eyes off the money for a while and look for Jesus instead? Perhaps you can stop following the Easter crowds to the shopping mall, and pause to find the fragrance of Jesus? Or maybe we all should pray that the Spirit of God blow some fragrant fresh air through our dusty theological expectations of Easter, and surprise us with something new.

This is certainly my anticipation for myself.  I am in Japan for the next two weeks. This secular country has probably only 1% of its population that claim to follow Jesus[1], and is therefore a wonderful mirror to ask questions about my faith during the Easter period. So please bear with me as I work out my spiritual thinking within a secular context. I do not have a clue where this will take me – but I am convinced that the One who guides my thinking has things for me to learn.


Easter Sunday
Christ Lives
Scripture reading taken from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants p.142




[1] Mariko Kato (February 24, 2009). "Christianity's long history in the margins". The Japan Times. "The Christian community itself counts only those who have been baptized and are currently regular churchgoers — some 1 million people, or less than 1 percent of the population, according to Nobuhisa Yamakita, moderator of the United Church of Christ in Japan"

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