Tag Archives: Disciples

Mary and the Dudes

Mary and the Dudes (CaD Mk 14) Wayfarer

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Mark 14:3 (NIV)

In today’s chapter, Mark provides a Cliff Notes summary of the fateful night of Jesus’ arrest. As I read the familiar episodes, I was struck at the contrast between Mary’s anointing of Jesus (she is not named in Mark’s biography of Jesus, but John names her, the sister of Lazarus) with expensive perfume, and the actions/behaviors of the Twelve.

Jesus has now been speaking of His arrest, suffering, and death for some time. The response of the Twelve has ranged from silence to confusion to outright disapproval. Mark’s version of events in today’s chapter reveal the behavior of the Twelve to be disagreeable and inattentive to the weight of the moment.

Mary, on the other hand, seems to see what no one else sees. She alone embraces what is about to happen, understands the weight of it, and responds by embracing what Jesus has said would happen. Mary alone acts as a willing participant. Her actions are to bless Jesus before His passion and to metaphorically prepare Him for death. Mary is the only person who seems to see and humbly accept. And, she’s criticized for it.

Jesus’ chosen disciples, meanwhile, can’t believe one of them would betray Him. They can’t stay awake with Him, even after He asks of them this small favor. They can’t stay and stand with Jesus in His moment of need. They can’t even admit they know Him, when confronted with multiple opportunities to do so.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but imagine myself in the roles of both Mary and the Twelve. Luke shares that Mary was one to sit at the feet of Jesus and hang on His every word to the point that her sister was indignant (everyone, it would seem, gets indignant with Mary). As much as I would like to think that I would have Mary’s insight, I am reminded that it came at the cost of ignoring urgent things in order to invest in important things. Her devotion to “asking, seeking, and knocking” appear to be the precursor to her spiritual perception.

Have I sacrificed things distracting and urgent to invest myself in Jesus as Mary did?

I have to confess that I identify with the dudes…

Present, but imperceptive.

Great intentions, but greatly inattentive.

Braggadocios during warm-ups, but bungling in the game.

Of course, today’s chapter is not the end of the story. The dudes will keep following. They will learn. They will turn the world upside down.

I’m looking out the window at the lake as I type this. Another day has dawned, and so my story isn’t over either. I take hope in that this morning. Like the dudes, I’ll keep following, too. I’ll keep learning. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even turn a few things upside-down before this wayfaring stranger’s journey is over.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Getting It

[Jesus] then began to teach [the disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
Mark 8:31 (NIV)

I spoke to a friend on the phone yesterday. We, of course, discussed the current world situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and how different our lives have been the past few weeks with everyone stay home and keeping to themselves.

“And it’s Holy Week!” my friend exclaimed. “It doesn’t feel very Holy. It feels more like a week with holes.”

I thought about Holy Week as I read this morning’s chapter. I’m half-way through Mark’s version of Jesus’ story. If I’d been thinking ahead I should have scheduled to start a week earlier so that I’d be finishing the story on Easter weekend. Oh well. One more thing to add to the list of things that feels a little “off” right now.

I find it interesting that while Jesus has been speaking in parables and metaphors for several chapters, He is quite direct and plain-spoken about how His story is going to end. It isn’t even a veiled foreshadow. He just puts it right out there.

Peter rebukes Jesus at this point. Ironically, Jesus has been complaining for two chapters about the disciples not understanding His parables. Now He speaks more directly to them than perhaps He’s ever done. They still didn’t understand.

Here’s the thing. The people who walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, witnessed the miracles, and spent three years in His constant presence didn’t get it when He said it to them plainly.

Who am I to think that I totally get it? How much don’t I get? What am I missing? How frustrated is Jesus with me? Is He shaking His head from heaven? “Tom! Dude! Forty years you’ve been following me, and you still don’t understand?”

I’m kind of glad that things are different this year. I’m asking myself this morning how much the traditions, the trappings, the religious services, the Easter dresses and bonnets and brunches and egg hunts distract me from getting it as I should.

The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law. He must be killed and after three days rise again.

I think maybe it’s good for me to be alone during Holy Week for a change. This plain-spoken statement of Jesus is probably something I should sit with in the quiet for a while. It’s something on which I need to ponder and let penetrate.

Lord, have mercy on this blind and deaf follower.

I want to better understand.

To Believe, or Not to Believe

Jesus said to [Thomas], “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
John 20:29 (NRSV)

It is the most startling claim of all of the startling claims that were made about Jesus. The One who cured lepers, cast out demons, made the lame walk and the blind to see. The One who raised a little girl from her deathbed and called Lazarus out of his tomb. This Jesus, whose beaten, tortured, and crucified body had lain dead and lifeless in the grave since Friday afternoon, is resurrected on Sunday morning and appears numerous times to different followers, including a sudden appearance behind locked doors to show his wounds as proof to a doubting Thomas.

There are many over the centuries who appreciate Jesus’ teachings and example, but fall short of believing the miraculous claims about Him. Yet it was the surety of the resurrected Jesus that led His followers to burst out from their hiding behind locked doors to boldly proclaim the most audacious claim of all. Each one of Jesus’ inner circle who saw Jesus present Himself to a doubting Thomas behind those locked doors would later prove willing to travel to the ends of the known world, to suffer terribly at the hands of unbelievers, and to die horrific deaths in proclaiming that which they had heard with their own ears, seen with their own eyes, and touched with their own hands.

It is one thing to nod acknowledgement and appreciation toward Jesus’ Pinterest worthy sayings. It is another thing to truly believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be and who His closest followers proclaimed Him to be though it cost them their own lives. If you believe the audacious claim, then it requires something of you. It requires everything of you.

For the record, I believe.

Chapter-a-Day John 20

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. John 20:19 (NLT)

The religious leaders of Jerusalem had conspired and in less than 24 hours they had apprehended, tried and executed Jesus. If they were so intent on killing their master, it would make sense for them to go after Jesus’ core disciples as well. They could make a clean sweep and be rid of this pesky sect that had caused so many headaches for them.

It is not surprising that Jesus’ followers were shut up behind locked doors fearing for their lives. They had nothing with which to defend themselves. They were uneducated men from the rural Galilee region in the north. They had no money, no political power, and they were in grief over the death of their master. They had alway depended on Jesus to lead them and tell them where they were going and what they should do. Now, they were distraught, afraid, leaderless and utterly without direction or hope.

So, what happened over the course of the following six weeks that changed this fearful, directionless, uneducated lot into a fearless, impassioned, articulate group of men boldly standing up in public to proclaim that Jesus was alive? In fact, all twelve would eventually spread out around the known world to experience persecution, torture and death in order to share with others the story of Jesus, His death and His resurrection.

Today I’m thinking about the fact that following Jesus and experiencing a relationship with Him results in changed lives. Death becomes life. Hate becomes love. Bitterness becomes forgiveness. Selfishness becomes selflessness. Prejudice becomes grace. I see that change in the story and testimony of Jesus’ first followers. I’ve seen it in countless others. I’ve experienced it in my own life, and I pray to experience increasingly more each day.

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 16

Uri at the sea of galilee
Image by yanivba via Flickr

“Now, watch for what comes next: I’m going to assemble a bunch of fishermen.” God’s Decree! “They’ll go fishing for my people and pull them in for judgment.” Jeremiah 16:16 (MSG)

For centuries, those who follow Jesus have followed a yearly calendar that, across the seasons, celebrates Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension. The traditional calendar marks this coming Sunday as remembering Jesus calling his first followers. In a little synchronicity with today’s prophetic chapter in Jeremiah, they happened to be fishermen:

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18-19 (NIV)

I grew up fishing, and I know a lot of passionate, amateur anglers. The thing about true fishermen is that they are both patient and tenacious about going after their catch. Isn’t it cool that when Jesus could have chosen academics and students of religion to be his followers, he instead went after rough and hardened blue collar fishermen? He could inspire them with the knowledge they needed, what Jesus was really looking for were followers with the heart and soul required for the tasks that lay ahead.

“Jesus would never want me,” people have told me as they weigh the emotional, relational and spiritual baggage of their own wayward journies.

Yes, actually. Yes, he would.

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