Reflection for Lent 5: Passion Sunday 3 April 2022

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

John 12: 1-8

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The Taj Mahal is without doubt the finest man-made building I’ve ever seen. Shan Johal built this magnificent structure, dedicated to the memory of his wife Mumtaz. If built today, it would cost half a billion pounds, but even that wasn’t enough for Johal. He wanted to build an even bigger memorial, this time in black marble, but his son objected and overthrew his father, saying, rather like Judas, that the money could be better spent on the poor. 400 years later, having seen how the poor live in India, I wonder whatever happened to Johal junior’s noble plans. We may think we have poor people in this country, but nothing could prepare for the depths of poverty we witnessed there. So, what was Jesus thinking when He said, “You will always have the poor among you”? Was He suggesting that the greedy and selfish will always exploit the vulnerable? If He knew there’d always be those at the top of life’s ladder and those struggling at the bottom, why teach us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come”?

It was always Christ’s mission to bring His Father’s Kingdom to earth. Sometimes when we look around us, it seems like He failed, but let me remind you of that Indian proverb made famous by the film, The First Exotic Marigold Hotel, “Everything will be alright in the end, and if it isn’t alright, it’s not yet the end!” Here Jesus warns there are no quick fixes to the world’s problems. No amount of expensive perfume or Taj Mahals will eradicate poverty. God came in person to assure us that He loves us, especially the poor (Matt.5:3) and that not even death will separate us from His love. This is why after 2000 years, that empty tomb still means so much. He came to equip us with the power of His Spirit and to hand the batten over to us, to take this Good News to the poor. Jesus never set out to change the world single-handedly, He just came to start the revolution!

Revd. Geoff Eales

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