What a Friend We Have

Monday in Holy Week, April 2, 2012

Today’s readings
Isaiah 42:1-9
Hebrews 9:11-15
John 12:1-11
Psalm 36:5-11

by Mary C. Earle

There they gave a dinner for him. —John 12:2

The gospel lesson appointed for Holy Monday takes us to the household of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. These three siblings regularly have offered hospitality to Jesus. Mary and Martha have demonstrated great faith, and Lazarus has been raised from the dead. Their lives have been knit together in powerful ways, and, particularly in the Gospel of John, we have glimpses of moments of miracle and mystery.

As is the case with many biblical accounts, there is much that is revealed in one verse. “There they gave a dinner for him.” In addition to being witnesses of Jesus’ authoritative teaching and life-giving presence, these three are his familiars. They treat him like family. He is at home in their home. Sometimes I have the sense that they are closer to him than the disciples, who are always busy bumping heads with one another, trying to see who is going to win “Best Disciple” of the week.

The disciples are on the road with Jesus, trying to learn, missing the point half the time, not wanting to hear Jesus tell them the truth of his life. By contrast, Mary, Martha and Lazarus offer Jesus their home. In the quiet domestic space of these three siblings, perhaps Jesus could be at ease. Perhaps he could put aside the messiah-projections and savor conversation, enjoy a meal, sleep in familiar surroundings.

According to the Gospel of John, it is in this house that Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus. She dares to take the pound of costly perfume and pour it on Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair. She dares to say with her actions, “I know what you are facing into; I know that this entry into Jerusalem will lead to your death. And I know you have to do this.”

I imagine that such honesty-in-action would have been a great gift to Jesus. Someone— friend—knows that darkness is up ahead. This family of siblings is willing to receive the truth, and in so doing they give Jesus a great gift.

Each of us has times in our lives when we need a friend who will not sugar-coat the reality we have to face. Each of us has a need for a Martha or a Mary or a Lazarus—for a friend who will let us be, who will let us say, “I am scared to my bones.” Or “I am going to suffer.” Or “I am going to die.”

When we encounter such friends, we know something of the presence of God in our midst, God in Christ as friend who allows us to tell the truth in love, to be the truth in love, by God’s grace, for one another.

This Holy Week, O God, may I remember that Jesus calls us his friends, and may I seek to love as he loves. Amen.

The Rev. Mary C. Earle is an author, spiritual director, retreat leader, and writer-in-residence at The Work+Shop in San Antonio TX. Reach her at mcearle48@gmail.com

This reflection is taken from Holy Week Devotions, www.explorefaith.com.

See more Holy Week reflections by Mary Earle at http://www.explorefaith.org/faith/explore_christianity/holy_days/holy_week_and_good_friday/earle_holy_week/index.php

For more ways to spend time with Christ during Holy Week, click here

For more reflections on the lectionary, read Brother James