Daily Devotion for April 12, 2014
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
This extraordinary footage of Ethel Waters and two small boys singing His Eye is on the Sparrow -- a capella! -- is taken from a 1952 movie, “The Member of the Wedding”.
Prayer to Change to Better Serve God
Holy God, I believe that you will change people and many things, if asked and if it is your will. Change me Lord, if it is your will, for I would lead a better life. Touch me, I pray, great God whose touch transforms. Reach out your mighty hand to me, and to all who seek you in the name of your Son. Heal us, transform us, and make us whole; reach out your mighty hand to lift us up to serve you; touch me and all of us this very day, O Lord, that our own hands may bring your hope and healing to this broken world.
[God transforms what He touches.]
To Appreciate God's Creation
Lord God, may all of your creation - from the vastness of mighty planets and stars to the lowliness of the smallest living creature I can see - remind me to live in wonder and appreciation of all that is around me.
Oh Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you”; I pray that I and your whole church, the body of all faithful people, will know your peace, and live in harmony and unity, one with another, in accordance with your wishes. This I pray to you, who lives and reigns forever.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
Matthew 26:1-13 (ESV)
Jesus Anointed at Bethany
When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Notes on the Scripture
We have entered Act IV; this is the opening scene of the crucifixion narrative, as the first paragraph shows.
Matthew treats the anointment story quite differently from John; he sticks to the theological significance, while John adds a more personal, sentimental element as well as a different theological emphasis. (John 11 and John 12:1-8.)
Matthew tells us it is two days before the Sabbath, thus the night before the last supper, and that Jesus spent it at the house of “Simon the leper”. We do not really know who all was there, although the other Gospels provide additional clues. The woman was named Mary and was Lazarus' sister, and that she anointed Jesus' feet — Luke tells us, in fact, that she anointed his feet with her tears.
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She was not crying at his feet. Jews of the day sometimes kept small bottles called “lachrymatories” in which they stored their tears, to be buried with them. Mary giving her tears to Christ symbolized her total faith that He would take care of her after her death.
Lazarus was involved, as was another sister named Martha, and of course Simon (who might have been Lazarus' relative). From reading all four Gospels, one gets a feeling that Jesus had a group of special friends in Bethany, people who were something more to him than religious followers. It's a very humanizing thought; but He was human, after all.
As to the meaning of the passage, Jesus' statement, “the poor will always be with you,” gives us guidance in several ways. Because the substance used to anoint him was extremely expensiveWith the caveat that full equivalence of money then and now is impossible, a reasonable estimate of the value of the ointment would be $10,000 to $25,000 U.S., the scene if often construed to allow the construction of churches rather more expensive than one might expect, even at the cost of relief to the poor. There is a lot of room for fair differences of interpretation.
It also shifts our thinking about charity, for by logical extension, it is foolish to think in terms of “eliminating poverty”; it creates unrealistic expectations. We must think, rather, in terms of alleviating poverty, or helping the poor. Christ's commandments to love our neighbor as ourselves, generally, and help the poor, specifically, have implications far beyond the earthly well-being of the recipient. In helping the poor, we glorify God. Christ commanded that we give our alms anonymously (Matthew 6:1-4), with the result that we avoid any taint of self-glorification and double the glorification of the Lord. But helping the poor pleases God and lays up “treasure in heaven” for those who do it.
The other point Matthew emphasizes is that Mary is preparing him for burial. The preparation is symbolic and spiritual; some denominations re-enact it today, in the ritual of extreme unction. By allowing Mary to anoint him with an expensive oil usually reserved for corpses, Jesus shows that he is ready for death.