Woman, Why Are You Weeping?

Come to the table, where life is found.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

I love John’s rendering of the resurrection — the way we get to read about it through the lens of Mary Magdalene’s experience.

We follow her to the tomb “early, while it was still dark” (John 20:1) and then follow her as she runs to get Peter and John to tell them the body of Jesus is gone from the tomb. After Peter and John run to the tomb to confirm it, they return to their homes, but we stay with Mary. 

It is Mary who sees the two angels: “Woman, why are you weeping?”

It is Mary who first meets Jesus: “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Then he asks her the same question he asked the guards who arrived to arrest him just days before: “Whom are you seeking?” It’s similar to the very first words John records Jesus speaking earlier in his gospel, after two disciples began to follow him. He turns around and sees them following and says, “What do you seek?” (John 1:37).

Always with the questions, this Jesus. 

I love how his questions, simple as they often are, obvious as the forthcoming answers may seem, gives each person the dignity of their response. He wants them to know themselves. 

And then he says her name: “Mary!” And she knows him at once. 

May you, too, on this Easter day know yourself and whom you seek, as well as the blessed joy of being named by Jesus.

Fumbling in the Dark

Eyelashes on pages, remnants of tears.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series. 

I know that, for me, grief creates a confusing state. 

When in grief, it’s like I’m stumbling around in incoherence. Bumping into walls. Nothing makes sense. I can’t think clearly. I don’t know how to hang on to rationality. I barely know how to articulate my feelings.

And I have no idea where God is.

Grief sets us at ground zero, I think. 

And this is where the disciples were on this day we mark as Holy Saturday. They were reeling. Didn’t know which way was up anymore. The One they had followed for three years — left everything and followed, even — was gone. Dead. Crucified by the powerful ones they thought he had come to supplant. 

I picture them in that upper room, wandering around like zombies. Together, but alone. Unable to speak much. Unable to hear much. 

Where was their leader now? 

Could he really be gone? 

They didn’t have the privilege of living on the other side of Sunday, like we do. They were living inside Saturday. 

They were fumbling around in the dark.

Whom Do You Seek?

Watching and waiting.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series. 

So, I made it to the vigil last night. I’m so thankful. 

I spent most of the hour staring at the icon of Jesus (pictured above), which last year I realized is incredible because in the depiction of his eyes, he seems to both take in the whole world while staring at and through the individual beholding him.

I stared at that icon and sought to place my heart with him in the garden on that last night of his freedom. The darkness. The fear. The loneliness. The anticipation. The desire for that cup to pass his lips on by. 

The eventual surrender. 

At one point, I realized that right at this moment, our Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. And to get there, it means he actually walked through the events he — and we — most dreaded him to experience.

He went through with it. He walked through the doors leading to his death. 

I thought about the strength that required. The resolve of will. The willingness. The greater vision that compelled him beyond the scourging and the pain and the abandonment and the forsakenness and the death and the descent into hell. 

He walked forward. 

Then this morning, as I read the events of that last day of his life, which we observe on this day called Good Friday, I saw even more of that initiative. 

Like when Judas and the guards and religious leaders entered the garden and Jesus, John says, “went forward” and asked them, “Whom do you seek?” (John 18:4). John says that Jesus knew “all these things that would come upon him,” and even still, he stepped forward and asked the question directly. He even asked it twice (vv. 4, 7). Then, when Peter tried to defend him with a sword, Jesus tells him to put the sword away because, he says, “Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (v. 11). 

The events of John 18-19 move forward with such unrelenting purpose. He’s arrested. He’s questioned. He’s put before Pilate and questioned again. He’s dressed in a robe and scourged. He’s given a cross, which he carries to the Place of the Skull. They cast lots for his clothing. He gives his mother to the care of John. He dies. He’s pierced. He’s taken down from the cross and carried to a tomb, where he is dressed for burial. 

It moves with such intentionality, and he withstood it all. 

He did not look back. He did not forestall. He did not run.

And so today, we both mourn and receive what he gave and wait.

On Being Someone Who Stays

Watching and waiting.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series. 

Today is Maundy Thursday of Holy Week.

In church tradition, it’s the day when we remember the Last Supper of Jesus, the event of his washing his disciples’ feet, his final teaching words and prayer, and then his arrest, when all his friends scattered. 

It’s the day, in church tradition, when the altar is stripped and left bare … just as Jesus was.

On this day — today — I can’t stop thinking of my experience of Maundy Thursday last year. It was our first Holy Week as a part of our little episcopal parish, which means it was our first time attending a Maundy Thursday foot-washing service and a Maundy Thursday service for the stripping of the altar. 

It was the first time I’d heard of the vigil at the altar of repose. 

In our tradition, this is a vigil that runs the whole night, with various members of the church body showing up to carry the hours. It’s meant to symbolize our willingness to watch and wait and pray with Jesus, just as he asked Peter, James, and John to do on the final night of his freedom.

This year, I signed up for 3 a.m. slot. Just like I did last year. Except last year, I slept through my alarm.

I keep thinking about that today — the way I fell asleep on Jesus, just as Peter did. I can’t help but wonder if tonight’s events will run the same. 

I hope not. 

Tonight, I hope to wake in the dead of night and drive myself over to the Alleluia Chapel at my church and sit in the presence of Jesus, staying awake with him in his hour of need. I hope not to leave him alone. I hope for my presence with him to be a blessing and comfort. 

I hope to be someone who stays.

He Still Speaks

One faith. One baptism.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

One of the most incredible pictures of union that I know is shared between Jesus and the Father.

I’m completely inspired by it. Again and again, Jesus tells his disciples, “I don’t speak any word unless the Father tells me to speak it. I don’t do any act unless prompted by the Father to do it. If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” 

So. Much. Union.

It’s like there’s absolutely no space to be found between them. The alignment Jesus shared with the Father made them a mirror image of one another. They were one and the same.

Complete integrity.

And then Jesus says the same is true of the Holy Spirit. 

On the last night of his freedom, Jesus says to his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:12-13). 

Jesus is about to die, and he has many things he still wants to say to his followers. But it’s OK, he says, because they couldn’t bear hearing those things right then anyway.

The words would have to wait. 

They’d wait until the Holy Spirit comes, when the cycle of divine union would continue — this time forever. 

If there were ever any need for believers to know that God still speaks today, I think this would be it. He still speaks, through the medium of the Holy Spirit who lives inside us, telling us everything that is true from the mouth of Jesus.

He still speaks. It’s amazing and wonderful, isn’t it?

We Serve Because He First Served Us

We worship the Christ.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

We’ve talked a lot about foot-washing in this Holy Week series. 

About how Jesus washed Judas’ feet. And how Peter didn’t understand the foot-washing and protested it at first until Jesus gently helped him receive it. And how a woman, overcome with love for Jesus, washed his feet, too, with her tears and expensive oil and her hair.

There was a whole lot of foot-washing going on in those last days of Jesus. 

And then Jesus tells them: You do this, too

He washes their feet and then says to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:12-15). 

I think the timing is important. 

It’s important that he waited three years to wash their feet. It’s important that he washed their feet before asking them to follow his example. In other words, they received fromJesus before being asked to respond on behalf ofJesus to others. 

I think about this in terms of healing. Going back to the woman who washed his feet with her tears, she did this in response to what she’d received from Jesus in a very personal way. Her foot-washing flowed out of her experience of being loved by him. She received, and the natural outflow for her was to give. 

In the same way, the disciples had received much from Jesus in those three years that preceded this event. They had received his time. His presence. His teaching. His guidance. His attention. His friendship. Even his correction.

And then, as a type of culmination, he washed their feet. 

And then said: You do this, too

They were to love and serve others out of the experience of having been loved and served by Jesus first. It’s like John also wrote in one of his letters: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). 

I’m not so sure we can love well if we haven’t allowed ourselves to receive love first.

Love strengthens us. It roots us. It establishes us and gives us confidence and a sense of self and worthiness. Then, from that place, we love with greater freedom. We serve freely because we have experienced being served by the one who loves us fully.

The Way You Know

Where will your path lead?

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

John 14:6 gets so much of the attention, doesn’t it? Jesus tells his followers, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” 

And yet I find it interesting why Jesus said these words in the first place. 

He was responding to a question. He’d just begun telling the disciples he’d be leaving. He says he’s going to prepare a place for them.

Then he says, “And where I go you know, and the way you know.”  Thomas, though, responds with a question: “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” 

That’s when Jesus says those famous words: that he is the way, the truth, the life.

I like how he told them, “The way you know.” Like he has so much confidence in them. Like there’s nothing mysterious here. He’s already shown them the way by walking with them for three whole years. They already know the way.

It tells me about our part now. Our part is to know Jesus. To know his way. 

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

Give me Jesus.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

It’s such a kind, tender thing for Jesus to say — and he says it to them twice (John 14:1, 27):

“Let not your heart be troubled.”

He’s trying to prepare them for his absence.

He’s going to prepare a place for them. He’s going to send them the Spirit. He’s not going to leave them orphans. He’s been with them for a while, but soon he will no longer be there.

And yet: 

“Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

I’m thinking it would have been hard for them to let him go. They’d spent every day with him for three solid years. He’d taught them so much. He’d trained them in his works and power. With him, they’d witnessed healings and other miracles. With him, they’d been safe from storms. 

He had become their whole world. And now he was leaving. 

And yet:

“Let not your heart be troubled.” 

One thing I love is that he made provision for their concern. He had a plan in place. He was going to have the Father send the Spirit, who would not only teach them everything they needed to know and bring to their remembrance everything he had taught him (v. 26), but who would also be with them forever (v. 16). 

He tells them this is what he’s going to do, and then upon his resurrection he promises it again (Acts 1:4-8), and then what he promised actually happened (Acts 2:1-4). He cares for what their experience of losing him will be, comes up with a plan, tells them about the plan in advance, and then he follows through on it.

It teaches me his care for us. It teaches me his trustworthiness.

It tells me he’s someone worth following.

When Healing Leads to Washing His Feet With Oil and Tears

Light on the Master.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

John’s gospel tells us that six days before the Passover that would signal the death of Jesus, he ate dinner at Lazarus’ house and that, while there, Mary took a flask of expensive oil and washed his feet with the oil and her hair (John 12:1-7). 

Judas said the oil was worth three hundred denarii. 

In Luke’s account of what happened, we learn that Mary “stood at his feet weeping” and then washed his feet with both the oil and her tears. We also learn she had been forgiven much by Jesus. Luke refers to “what manner of woman this is” and says she was known as “a sinner” (Luke 7:36-50). The people around him were astounded at her actions and wanted him to watch out for a woman of her caliber of sinfulness touching him.

And yet there he was, defending her.

And there she was, weeping at his feet. Wiping them with her tears and her hair. Pouring upon them some very costly oil. 

I think this happens when we experience profound love. At least, I know that’s the response I have. I can’t help but cry at the feet of Jesus for what I’ve received — and continue to receive — from him.

In my life, I’ve been through some intense seasons of pain followed, eventually, by the experience of being healed. Every single instance of healing happened in the presence of Jesus. It came through an encounter with his love, which is infinite. Patient. Full of embrace. There on the floor with us.

When we, in our deepest experiences of brokenness, are loved like that, we fall at his feet in worship. We feel utter amazement, awe, and thankfulness. We want to love him in return. He becomes the most beautiful vision we have ever known. 

And we want to give him everything. 

Even our tears. Even the most costly thing we have.

His Response to Peter's Lack of Knowledge

Archangel Michael.

This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

One of the things I love about Peter is his out-loud way of living. 

He takes the lead in so many of the scenes recorded in the gospels between Jesus and his disciples. He’s the one who steps out of the boat to walk on water to meet Jesus in the ocean in the dead of night (Matt. 14:25-32). He’s the one who declares out loud who he believes Jesus to be — the real and true Messiah — before anyone else breathed a word of it (Matt. 16:13-20).

Even when he’s misguided, Peter lives out loud. 

Like when he tells Jesus he’d be willing to die for him (John 13:37), but Jesus tells him otherwise, saying that Peter will have denied even knowing Jesus before the next morning dawns. Or when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and Peter protests that Jesus should kneel and serve him in that way. Jesus tells him this must happen, so Peter course-corrects and says, “Then wash also my hands and my head!” (John 13:5-9). Or when the guards and Roman soldiers and religious leaders infiltrate the garden to arrest Jesus, and Peter draws out his sword and cuts of the right ear of one of them. Jesus redirects Peter’s aggression and impulsivity by telling him to put his sword away (John 18:10-11). 

Over and over, Peter speaks his mind and acts with complete abandon. And a lot of the time, especially as recorded in John’s gospel of the last days of Jesus, he thinks he knows himself and the need of each moment.

But he really doesn’t. 

He doesn’t know himself.

He doesn’t know the full way and intent of Christ. 

And yet, there’s Jesus. Redirecting him. Teaching him. Correcting him. Telling him the truth. And most of all, staying with him through it — and even beyond. When he and Peter have that famous encounter on the beach in the aftermath of it all, Jesus takes him aside and talks with him with patience and even more forgiveness. “Do you love me?” he asks Peter three times, letting Peter respond to the best of his ability (John 21:19). 

And then he gives Peter more responsibility, telling him to feed and tend the flock of believers.

I think one of the reasons I love watching Peter in all his brazenness is because I love seeing the response of Jesus. 

Despite Peter’s presumption and lack of real knowledge of himself and the intent of Christ, Jesus never pushes him away. He never sneers at Peter or shames him for being a bit off-base. Instead, he keeps moving toward Peter — and not just moving toward him, but also trusting him with things to do and leadership.

It tells me that Jesus isn’t exasperated with us in our ignorance. It tells me he can handle giving responsibility to people who don’t have it all figured out and don’t do all things perfectly. 

I love Jesus even more when I see his love for Peter.

It tells me about his love for me.

He Washed Judas' Feet, Too

How he loves you.

This entry is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.

Have you ever noticed that Judas was still in the room when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet — meaning Jesus washed his feet, too? 

It’s true. 

Judas didn’t leave the upper room until later in the evening (see John 13:30), but the footwashing event happened earlier (vv. 4-12). And the passage in John that records the footwashing event indicates Jesus washed the feet of each disciple in the room. 

Which means he washed the feet of Judas. 

Can you see Jesus kneeling on the floor before the one who would betray him — the one whose betrayal would lead to his capture that very same night and his great suffering and even his death — picking up his dusty, dirty feet and bathing them gently with water and cloth?

Can you just imagine it? The tenderness of such an act? Offered to his ultimate betrayer? 

It does a number on my concept of love. It tells me much about the capacity of Jesus to love and welcome those opposed to him — and not just to welcome them, but to assume before them the posture of a servant, willing to kneel and clean their dirty feet.


Holy Week 2013: Our Meditation Begins

Head of Christ.

Last year at this time in the church year, I wrote a series of posts that took us through Holy Week via the book of Matthew. Each day, we journeyed with Jesus in his final days and reflected on what he experienced and how his discples were with him — as well as not with him — in that time. We allowed his final days to become a marker of our own days in that week. (You can read the posts from last year’s journey here.)

This year, I’d like to do the same, this time from the gospel of John.

Will you take the journey with me? 

Since we’re two weeks out from Easter at this point, Holy Week proper has not yet begun. But I find much to consider in the pages of John as that book records the last days in the earthly life of Jesus, so we’re going to start the journey now. 

To get us started, let’s begin with an open question: 

What does Holy Week mean to you? Does it mean anything at all?