Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Anointed for Burial

Matthew and Mark both mention Jesus being anointed by an anonymous woman two days before Passover, with generic disciples protesting. If we think of Passover beginning on sundown on Thursday, this might have been at sundown on Tuesday. By Jewish reckoning, that's the beginning of Wednesday.

As usual, John is the Gospel that is hard to fit together from a precise historical perspective. There are features of John that show clear blending with this story, such as the oral kernel, "You will always have the poor with you," and other features. But the timing and apparently the location seems different in John. There, it is six days before the Passover and at the home of Mary and Martha, rather than of Simon the Leper.

[It's a reminder that we are looking at the Gospels the wrong way if we view them as video recordings--especially John. We should read them more for the truths and moral lessons we get from the stories than as modern histories.]

Several truths I take from Mark 14:1-11:
  • The worship of Jesus is ultimately even more important than the mission. Not everything about faith is utilitarian. There is a time for beauty. There is a time to stop and praise. God himself is ultimately more important even than saving souls or helping the poor!
  • Jesus is in the home of Simon the leper. Even to the end, he is including people who have been excluded. He is sanctifying the unclean and making it clean.
  • She is symbolically preparing him for burial. Why did he die again? He died to absorb the sins of his people, humanity, the world. He died as the greatest embodiment of God's love for us and God's desire to reconcile the world to himself. He died to defeat the powers of death and hell.

5 comments:

Rick said...

Of course Richard Bauckham suggests that John may be the more historical portrayal of the four.

Ken Schenck said...

Certainly could be. I feel like my church is mature enough to have those discussions, at least in a classroom setting, without feeling too threatened by them. I used to be afraid to mention such issues, but I think our faith can handle it.

James E. Snapp, Jr. said...

A pause for nitpicking:

KS: "Matthew and Mark both mention Jesus being anointed by an anonymous woman two days before Passover, with an anonymous disciple protesting."

They do? No; Mark only says that "some" people protested, and Matthew identifies the woman's critics as "his disciples;" neither singles out one anonymous disciples.

Ken Schenck said...

Thanks for the clarification!

Rick said...

"I feel like my church is mature enough to have those discussions"

Just to clarify, Bauckham is not saying the other 3 gospels do not have much historical accuracy, rather, he is saying that the common perception of John's gospel ("more theological than historical") may underestimate the historical accuracy of John.