Tag Archives: way of the cross

Monday in Holy Week

The Costly Sacrifice

At the beginning of Holy Week we have the example of love and sacrifice of Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus. She understood who Jesus was and what He was about to do, more than many of His disciples:

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.  (John 12:3-7)

We may do “good works” by giving to the poor, provided our motives are pure. (Judas Iscariot’s motives were not.) Nevertheless, our good works will not purify us. If we ignore the passion and purpose of Christ we will miss the mark.

When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!  (Hebrews 9:11-14)

What does our love of Christ cost us? What do we give to Him in return to demonstrate our love? Mary sacrificed all that she had for her Savior. It is not that she purchased His love. She gave out of joy because she already knew that she had His love. Do we know the love of Jesus? The psalmist wrote:

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
    your judgments are like the great deep;
    you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
   All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  (Psalm 36:5-7)

Jesus sacrifice for us was and is priceless. The sacrifice we may make to him is not necessarily about money, though our financial giving is important. In his psalm of repentance, King David wrote:

For you have no delight in sacrifice;
    if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.   (Psalm 51:16-17)

Our greatest sacrifice is to love the Lord with all our hearts, mind, soul, and strength. Are we willing to sacrifice our will, our right to be right, our independence from God, our selfish pleasure, our very souls? Mary was willing. Nothing was too costly for her to impede her love for Christ She understood what Christ would do for her. The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.

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Holy Week

The Way of the Cross

One of the meanings of holy is “set apart.” Let us set apart an entire week – Holy Week – to recall the events surrounding the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. Let us also set ourselves apart for this week as well.

During the very week of our Lord’s Passion, James and John made a special request of Jesus:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”  (Mark 10″35-40)

What strange baptism is Jesus talking about in His response to James and John. He is speaking about the “way of the cross.”

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.  (Luke 12:49-51)

During this Holy Week, let us reflect upon what this baptism means for each of one us. The Apostle Paul wrote:

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:4-7)

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.  (Colossians 3:1-4)

We look forward to the resurrection and the celebration of Easter. But have we died with Him? Are we a living sacrifice unto the LORD? Have we enter the way of the cross? If we have not then we do not fully understand the meaning of our baptism. We must die and our life must be hidden in Him. Otherwise, we may ask the same inappropriate question of James and John. Many in the church still do, even to this day. We will soon be celebrating the resurrection of our Lord, but there would have been no resurrection without the crucifixion.

Let us declare as did the Apostle Paul:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.    (Galatians 2:19-20)

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Filed under Baptism of our Lord, Holy Week, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year A