Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Last Dinner

(I draw heavily from Dad's study on Tuesday, April 12, at Robertson Manor entitled "The Beginning of the Last Week")

As the most important week of Jesus' life on earth was about to launch, we find Him in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus - having dinner with His friends.

Not in the temple, being baited by the religious leaders. Not healing the sick and feeding the multitudes. Not walking on water and stilling storms. Not preaching and teaching. Not even being tested by Satan or in prayerful solitude with His Father.

As He approached all that this week would entail - He was about to ride into the City with all the pomp and ceremony that a donkey and a crowd of rough, desperate people calling out to Him could provide; He was going to observe quietly the goings-on at the Temple and then return to sweep it clean of the corruption that was seething inside it;  He was going to tackle the religious leaders of the day with the strongest language He had used on them yet, those "whitened sepulchres"; He was going to have a last meal with those He had spent the past three years with, His closest followers; He was going to be betrayed by one of those followers; He was going to be the defendant at a mockery of a trial; He would be stripped, beaten, mocked, spat upon, pronounced Not Guilty, and yet be strung up to die - as He prepared for all of this where He wanted to be was with His friends, in their quiet home, drawing strength from their love and acceptance.

Feeling like family.

Tonight, at dinner, Lazarus was seated at the table with Jesus. Lazarus, who had been dead and then had been raised from the dead by his friend. Lazarus, who undoubtedly would have questions - what do you suppose they talked about? - but was mainly full of gratitude. Lazarus was a celebrity now, because people came over to see him, truly a dead man walking. But none of the attention was important to him compared to being with Jesus.

They were served by Martha. Martha, who at a previous meal had nagged Jesus about speaking to Mary to help out a bit. She was so comfortable with Jesus in her home that she felt free to grumble to him like He was her brother.

Until He brought her brother back to life.

Now Martha couldn't do enough for Jesus. She truly served Him now, not as a chore or because it was expected but because He had given her back her beloved brother and there was nothing she would not do for Him. 

As the meal started to wind down, Mary came forward and unselfconsciously, worshipfully, broke open an alabaster jar of precious spikenard - an extravagant gesture usually reserved for royalty because the ointment was so difficult to procure and therefore prohibitively expensive. She anointed Jesus' feet with this ointment.

Jesus' feet were precious to Mary. She had spent a lot of time at Jesus' feet. The time Martha complained about her to Jesus was because Mary had been at His feet, listening and learning. When Jesus had come to their home after Lazarus died and others were reproaching Him for taking so long to get there, Mary had fallen at His feet and wept. 

And now, as she anointed those same feet with this aromatic spice, the whole house was filled with its fragrance.

Jesus said to the people who muttered judgmentally about the waste of it all, "Leave her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial."

I read up on spikenard and most of the literature agrees that it is a spice that is used in emotional healing. But Wikipedia puts it this way: "Emotionally this oil is reserved for deep seated grief or old pain. It is used in palliative care to help ease the transition from life to death."

Mary was easing the transition from life to death for Jesus.

Did Mary know somehow? Or was it because she had spent so much time sitting quietly in His presence observing and pondering His words and actions, and because she had so recently witnessed the death of one she held most dear, that she was more attuned than most to the treasure of life itself and she wanted to worship the person who had not only restored life to her brother but who had also given life to her own heart and soul?

Regardless, that evening Lazarus sat and fellowshiped with Jesus.

Martha served Him.

And Mary anointed Him.

The great statesman Benjamin Disraeli said this:  "We should never lose an occasion. Opportunity is more powerful even than conquerors and prophets."

Lazarus, Martha and Mary would not have known that this would be the last opportunity they would have to be with Him like this before He died. But all three of them rose to the occasion and were truly present for Jesus and with Jesus at His last supper with them.

All three of them worshiped Him the best way they knew how.

And from this wonderful time of fellowship, from this quiet evening spent with people He loved and who loved Him, He headed toward Jerusalem and faced what was to come.


I've thought a lot about that evening over the past week or so, and my own heart has been challenged. How many opportunities have I been given to serve people, to honour them, simply to be present to them? I may never realize the significance of that time, may never know until too late that it is the last time I will have that privilege. 
And I think about Buck Howe, husband of Jessie and friend of the TH. One Friday afternoon during the months the TH was closed I had bumped into Jessie at the post office. How's Buck, I had asked. "Not so good," was the response. "Funny I should see you today. He was just saying that he missed the tea house, and that he especially missed your chocolate pie. He said he hasn't had a good piece of chocolate pie since you shut down." 
The next day I made a chocolate pie and took it up to the Chateau, where Jessie and Buck lived. Buck was sitting quietly in his big chair, his tired eyes half closed. But when I walked in and he saw what I was carrying, he opened his eyes wide, sat up straighter and beamed. "I don't remember you, but I sure do remember your chocolate pie!" he said.

Such a little thing, a pie, but it turned out that that was the last time I saw Buck. A couple of weeks later he was buried, the day before my mother.

I am so, so thankful I made that pie.


  1. Quit doing that to my eyes -- they'll run dry

  2. ... it always pays to pay attention to your promptings. Precious.

  3. I am so thankful that you are you!
    Happy Resurrection Day!


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