When I first read the gospel lesson for today from John, I was struck by how, in just a few short verses, it depicts some of the many ways in which the religious life (or what passes for religion) can be distorted or betrayed. Here are examples.
· Judas says the costly ointment used by Mary to anoint the feet of Jesus should have been sold and the money given to the poor, but his real interest is to siphon off some of the funds for himself.
· Jesus’ answering statement that he will shortly die while you will always have the poor with you has sometimes been taken out of context as an excuse for not reaching out to those in need.
· Crowds come to see Jesus but also to see Lazarus who has been raised from the dead—perhaps an early anticipation of the spirit of P.T. Barnum.
· The chief priests want to kill Lazarus to end this spectacle, no doubt justified in their own minds to maintain their religious authority.
The Bible truly conveys both the Holy and the all too human. But how pure are our own religious motives? How tempted are we to think when reading a passage such as this, “At least I'm not that bad.”? I ask these questions not to be gloomy or defeatist but to shine a light on our own flawed humanity. Bill Coffin, the late Chaplain of Yale and Senior Minister of Riverside Church, liked to ask, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? You bet you were, hammer in hand.”
In this Holy Week perhaps our highest priority should be to gather at the foot of the Cross and consider, as if for the first time, what God has done and is doing out of love for us.
― John Zuck