Day 2 – Tuesday: Jesus is Anointed at Bethany
Tuesday was a busy day for Jesus and his disciples. Over four chapters in Matthew’s gospel are dedicated to recalling the events of this “Holy Tuesday.” The day begins with an odd-seeming story of Jesus cursing a fig tree so that it dies; and the day ends with Jesus predicting the time and method of his own death (Matt. 26:1-2), and then returning to Bethany where a woman anoints his head with expensive perfume. In between, Jesus tangles with the religious authorities, who question Jesus’ credentials and try to trip him up with questions about paying taxes, marriage and the Greatest Commandment. From there Jesus speaks with the crowds about the hypocrisy of these religious leaders and he describes for his disciples what the end times will be like. Throughout the day Jesus offers a half dozen parables, or stories, that illustrate the point of what he’s saying to these wildly different audiences. Finally, he returns for a quiet dinner at the home of friends, but even that erupts into conflict when a woman pours expensive oil on Jesus’ head and the disciples become “indignant” at her wastefulness. Like I said…Tuesday was a busy day.
Poem: The Anointing at Bethany (Malcolm Guite)
Come close with Mary, Martha, Lazarus
So close the candles stir with their soft breath
And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
Lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
In quietness and intimate encounter
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
Is broken open for the world’s true lover,
The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
Here at the very centre of all things,
Here at the meeting place of love and loss
We all foresee, and see beyond the cross.
Lord, we long to be close to you today…so close that your breath stirs our hearts and fills our souls. You are indeed the world’s True Lover. Make our hearts ready to receive you, make our spirits dance. For in you we leave behind the pain of our past and we can see beyond the pain of our present. May our prayers and worship be a sweet-smelling incense in your presence, and may they be the aroma of Christ to the world around us. Amen.