the pause before the plunge | John 12.1-2
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. John 12:1-2 | ESV
But Jesus moved to his own schedule – and six days out from the great Flyby Festival, he shows in Bethany. Return trip to Lazarus’ stomping grounds. You remember Lazarus, don’t you? Dead man walking now brimming with life because of Jesus. And what better to do than dish up a feast right on the spot. Martha is serving, Lazarus is sitting – just another joyful face at the table with Jesus. And Mary? Where’s Mary? AWOL from Martha’s kitchen staff – again. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Amidst all the swirling speculation and muffled debate in Jerusalem as crowds gathered for the Passover festival, Jesus returns – for the last time. This will be the final plunge. This will be the point of it all. His crowning achievement.
We all have different warm-up rituals – those things we do to get ourselves “in the zone” before the big game, the big performance.
Jesus arrived early to spend time with his friends over a meal. Before the plunge he paused to enjoy the company of those whom he loved most.
There are discrepancies here, it would seem, between the different Gospel accounts as to exactly what happened and when, where and how. John talks about this anointing of Jesus’ feet six days before Passover by Mary in Lazarus’ house (though that’s more an assumption of the text – it doesn’t explicitly say that). He says Mary anointed Jesus’ feet and then wiped his feet with her hair – which sounds an awful lot like the story Luke tells of such an event a bit earlier in Jesus’ ministry in Luke chapter 7 (on that occasion by a woman of “ill repute”). Luke doesn’t tell this story of anointing in the final week of Jesus’ life. While Mark does, but he seems to put it two days before the Passover and locates it in the house of Simon the Leper – and it’s an anointing of the head, not the feet, there. So some say there were two anointings by Mary that final week of Jesus’ life. One six days out and one two days out – preceded by yet another anointing by another unnamed woman a great deal earlier. Others see just one such event that’s been split out into several events at different times by different tellers of the story.
Chronology and “getting the facts straight” when it comes to telling a story or relating a history is so everything for us, and so meh for them in that culture.
There is certainly a place for harmonizing story details and timing, but the point here lies elsewhere:
in the reality of Jesus pausing with his friends,
taking the time for a meal with them;
leisurely embracing those moments as they embraced each other.
And in pausing, without uttering a direct word of instruction to us, how he teaches us.
How do you personally “pause before taking the plunge” when facing a big event or challenge in life? What is the greatest “plunge” you’ve recently had to take? What happened?
Lord, show me how to pause when I need to before events and challenges great and small, rather than simply driving on ahead. Give me a greater sensitivity to your rhythms in and around me. Give me a greater appreciation for pausing to be with friends for the giving and receiving of food – and of love. Through Jesus.