Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Sensual Second-to-Last Supper

Matthew 26 is one of the longest chapters in the Gospels, it is the prelude chapter to Jesus' cruel crucifixion.

Being so lengthy, the advantage is that its chock full of tragic tales and bigger then life accounts.

Take for example the Sensual Second-to-Last Supper. We know so much about the Last Supper, it is a compelling story in its own right, but the Last Supper before the Last Supper is just as compelling, if not more so.

The chapter essentially opens with this fascinating feast, Jesus is in a suburban village outside of Jerusalem, hanging out in a home of a leper...did you catch that? Of course, by now, Jesus eating with forbidden folks is almost old hat...but don't miss this point: he is eating (a sign of union and eternally bonded friendship) with a despised, unclean, death-bound Leper. So there is that interesting background detail. In the same opening sentence, Matthew reveals to us that a woman (a socially outcast human who was to remain unnoticed) comes to Jesus with a purposeful stride, softly bearing "an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume...which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table." Whoa! What a whiff of devotion, desire, and delight!

And Jesus takes it - he revels in the overbearing scent as it soaks into his beard, it drips down his dirty hair, as it stains his smelly garments. The woman may have approached him out of a longstanding resolve to express her love for him, but once the alabastar jar was empty...then what? There must have been this tender moment where her gut gets queezy, she is very vulnerable at this point - maybe she is clutching the little vase to her throbbing chest...looking with eyes wide open, hoping for an expression of reciprocal love. Jesus' eyes lock onto hers, but before he can utter anything...the disciples burst out with protestation! How scandalous! How wasteful! Our meal of mutton and goat-cheese is ruined! Oh man..... The tender scene is trampled upon by the bufoonery of the Jesus followers...except maybe Simon the Leper and Judas Iscariot - they knew better then the other men what was really going on. But their resulting reactions to it led to two very different results.

This sensual supper is beautiful, it is full of bravado and brazen love, it is the kind of delight for which God has always yearned and we have been to tentative to pour out. This supper is so much more wonderful then the Passover meal, which is full of impending doom, woe-full misunderstanding, and lonliness. This is the story which essentially begins the end of Jesus' life - the one last beautiful moment with humanity before they turn on him in betrayal, denial, hate, fear, and cruelty. She is what is best about those who sin, she is the vision of a redeemed humanity, she is the reminder of why Jesus wants to rescue us. Will we remember her?

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