Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Lighting up another low-level Lent

Despite my best intentions, all too often the high points of the church year pass in a low-level kind of way. I welcome the approach of Christmas and Easter with great expectations, and the resolve to wring something deep and meaningful in the days ahead.

Then, all of a sudden, two or three days have gone by without reading the Advent or Lenten reflections, and next the actual days of celebration are upon me. There’s great joy in them, still, but part of me feels like I have cheated myself a little bit—like I have just turned up to eat the meal, rather than shared in the preparation that makes the consumption so much more meaningful.

One reason is the familiarity of the stories. I find it too easy to set my mind and heart on cruise control when I read the Bible, not really coming to it as though it’s a first-time experience. And if I am not expecting to find anything new, then I am likely not going to be disappointed. Well, I am, but not surprised by that, if you see what I mean.

Thankfully, by God’s grace I am not a prisoner of my own shortcomings. Even when it feels like I am just going through the motions, I can be snapped awake by something that catches my attention. Like these three snippets as I have been reading Mark’s account of Passion Week.

Betrayal comes cheap. Extravagant devotion is juxtaposed with cheap betrayal in Mark 14:1-11. I never noticed before that the woman’s anointing of Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume was immediately followed by Judas’ slouching off to sell Him out. She gave so much; Judas gave away for so little.

Judas’ price of thirty pieces of silver was a tenth of the cost of the woman’s nard, just about a month’s pay. Putting a price tag on unfaithfulness somehow brings it into sharp focus. My sin sent Jesus to Calvary: I’m not advocating sinning big to make it all seem worthwhile, of course, but how easily do we give Him up?

We’re all weak. When Jesus tells His disciples at the Last Supper that one of them is going to betray Him, they are not only saddened. “One by one they said to him, ‘Surely you don’t mean me?'” (Mark 14:19). While we don’t know their tone of voice, we do know that they’d done some jockeying behind the scenes for the best spots in the Team Jesus photo.

But I suspect that this question wasn’t posed indignantly; more likely in a slightly anxious manner. Maybe when they asked they looked into His eyes, seeking reassurance from the One they had come to learn knew them better than they knew themselves. And if they had reason to wonder, then I know I need to ask that same question sometimes.

Missing the point. I sometimes pride myself on not being like the Pharisees—proving just the opposite, course. Then, on reading the account of Jesus’ appearance before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53-65), I realized just how much like them I can be.

The Pharisees found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, we’re told. While this is pretty ridiculous, when you think about it, and I don’t take God’s name in vain, yet I am sometimes with them in spirit. How? Well, Jesus’ accusers were essentially saying that He (God) wasn’t acting Goddy enough—and I certainly do that when I complain that things aren’t going my way because He’s not doing what I have decided He should be doing.

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