This Monday of Holy Week we heard St. John's account of the first Last Supper. Christ prepared us then for today, Holy Thursday, THE Last Supper, and now is urging us: "Remember Lazarus".
In every town Jesus travels through he encounters sinners and the sick. Bethany is no exception. Simon the Leper lives in Bethany. Mary the sinner is forgiven in Bethany. Lazarus is raised from the dead in Bethany.
On Monday Jesus passes back through Bethany, the "House of Misery", to dine with old friends. He is on his way to Jerusalem - on his way to death.
For Bethany, this meal with Jesus is a last supper.
"They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him." John 12:2
John's Gospel uniquely points Lazarus out at the table with Jesus. Lazarus was raised from the dead during Jesus' previous visit to Bethany (in John 11) and the town is still electric with the story of Jesus' miraculous defeat of Lazarus' death. It was a last straw for the Chief Priests and Pharisees.
"So from that day on they planned to kill him." John 11:53
The Jews travel to Jerusalem to prepare for Passover, and there prepare to arrest Jesus and put him to death once He arrives.
What did Lazarus and Jesus talk about?
Death, I'm sure of it.
No doubt the story of Lazarus, his tomb, his burial clothes, and Jesus calling him from the grave was told again. It is a story that should end in smiling and laughing. But you could imagine this room filled with a soberness as Jerusalem and what could happen there looms, only two miles away. Many could guess the intentions of those who were looking to arrest Jesus. A strange mutual understanding exists between Lazarus and Jesus.
The night of this dinner in Bethany, death is a guest.
Lazarus is a dead man, walking away from death. Jesus is a "dead man", walking towards death. The disciples have a clue at this point, they must have heard the rumors, and Jesus had already begun to speak more often of His death.
Death sits at table with the dying. Death retells his story. His memories, his last thoughts from the cusp of death, and then - what? What happened before awaking wrapped and bound in a tomb?
His soul wretched from his body.
Suddenly Jerusalem seems too close.
Jesus will die. Could the Apostles be put to death as well? Could He raise himself from the dead? But there Lazarus sits. Eating and laughing and moving. He is ALIVE. There is no getting around it. Lazarus was dead but now he is alive.
And in the middle of this strange dinner of the dead, the dying, the sick, and sinners, a fragrance like sweet flowers fills the room. Mary anoints the feet of Christ and wipes those sacred feet with her hair.
Mary, Martha's sister, pours out all she has onto Jesus' feet. Three hundred day's wages would have been needed to buy that much perfume. Where did Mary get that kind of money? Could it be the spoils from a past life of sin? Could Mary have, in one act, poured out and died to all that was left of her attachment to the world and her past life onto the feet of Christ? These feet carried this gift and burden to the Cross where they were pierced for Mary. For you and me.
At THE Last Supper, did the Apostles remember Lazarus?
This time, they are without a walking witness to Jesus' power over death. Memory of their time with Jesus is all they have left. Memory and faith. They are on the eve of their Shepard being struck down and them being scattered. What would happen to Jesus? What might happen to them?
Tonight, at the Last Supper before Easter, place yourself at THE Last Supper. Your heart would have been pounding; the fear of death sneaking into the room, assaulting your faith. Jesus speaks of His death. Breaks His bread and shares it with you. Jesus washes your feet. And as the fear of death, yours and that of the Lord who lovingly washes your feet, slips into your mind, you try to repeat to yourself...