I wonder if in this moment, when Jesus is being loved with a grace upon grace kind of love, an abundance of love, a love that you could even smell, with a fragrance that would linger for days, that Jesus remembered his mother. Three years ago. Back in Cana. At that wedding. His mother, who loved him, who knew who he was and what he was capable of doing. His mother, without whom, I wonder, when Jesus’ ministry would have actually gotten started.
Jesus insists it is not his time, but his mother knows better, as mothers often do. Because of her insistence, Jesus starts doing what he came to do. Because of her encouragement, Jesus realizes the time really had come. Because of her love, Jesus can do what he was sent to do. Jesus’ mother loves Jesus into his future as the Word made flesh.
Now, in Bethany, Jesus finds himself in the same kind of position, the same kind of transition, the same kind of situation. Immediately after Mary anoints Jesus, he will enter the city of Jerusalem. And so, Jesus needs that same encouragement, that same love, to do what he must do. Mary’s extravagant love for Jesus makes it possible for Jesus to show extravagant love in what follows — washing the feet of his disciples, handing himself over to be arrested in the garden, carrying his own cross, dying, rising, and ascending. Mary loves Jesus into his future as the fulfillment of, “for God so loved the world.”
In other words, Jesus needed Mary’s love as much as she needed to show Jesus how much she loved him. That’s pretty much how love works. How relationships work. Because, here’s the thing. To what extent you cannot do what you need to do, have to do, even want to do, without another saying, “yes, you can do this;” without another loving you into your future. Jesus is loved into his future by these two remarkable women — his mother and his friend.
In the last week, I have attended two ordinations. I am always moved when, after our hearty and heart-felt applause, the newly ordained thanks all those who made the day possible. Youth group directors, pastors, parents, friends, family, church members, etc. It is quite extraordinary when you have a room full of the ones who loved you into your future.
Over the weekend I said goodbye (again) to my oldest son who had been home from college for spring break. It is amazing to have adult children. We spent about four hours together on Saturday night. I made him dinner. We face-timed with his girlfriend because she wanted to “meet” me. We talked about why he loved his anthropology class. Sunday, we went to the art museum with my dad, his grandfather, of course. When he gets on the plane to head back to school, I think he will know what it feels like to be loved into his future.
Of late, I have had to imagine and then begin to implement some changes for my future. What I could not imagine is how to step into that future without being loved into it.
Do you know what I mean, Dear Working Preachers? What it feels like to love someone into their future, even a future that is uncertain, even a future that will mean suffering? And what it means to be loved into your own? That without being loved into that future, you would have stayed where you were?
But we also know those who object to this kind of love. Who find it unnecessary, a little over-the-top, in fact. Those who dismiss such love as wasteful, who think people are better off fending for themselves; that real strength means relying on individual fortitude rather than the faithfulness of others. That real power comes from trusting in your own autonomy and self-made success, rather than believing in the confidence of others.
Along comes Judas for many reasons, but one in particular is to remind us of these love resisters. These persons who either dismiss this kind of love or insist that only the weak would look for such prodding. These persons who, somewhere along the line, decided that the only future was the one they themselves determined. Or, those persons who, for reasons we will never know, never experienced a Mary kind of love and have never known what a difference it can make — all the difference in the world.
I think Jesus took Mary’s love with him into Jerusalem. I think he acted out her love when he washed the feet of his disciples, especially when he washed the feet of Judas about to betray him and Peter who would deny him. I think he felt once again Mary’s love, her gentle touch, when he was beaten. I think he held on to Mary’s love, desperately, when he hung on that cross. And, I think he remembered Mary’s love and then, once again, his mother’s love when he looked into her eyes one last time and said, “It is finished.” And, then, I think Jesus took all of that love into the tomb, all of that love that would then love him into his future as the resurrection and the life.