You may recall the story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar healed by Jesus. In celebration, he followed Christ into Jericho, joyously telling all near him of his healing. And he was there when Jesus called Zacchaeus down from the tree. Can you imagine, healing a physically blind man then dining at the home of a spiritually blind man all within a day? Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus were from the same town. Zacchaeus may have disgustedly passed by Bartimaeus on a regular basis. He may have collected such high taxes from the man that the only way he could survive was to beg. And yet they all 3 sit down together at Zacchaeus’s home to eat. Is it possible that the beggar helped to make spiritually rich the man who made him financially destitute? Here’s the thing, while following Jesus is most often an individual act of faith, that act almost always affects those around you. We are interrelated.
In 1929 a Hungarian writer named Frigyes Karinthy wrote a short story called “Chain-Links” in which he suggested the theory of Six Degrees of Separation. This theory is a key concept in city planning and social networking. Spiritually, the theory highlights the truth that each life needs and, in turn, affects all other lives. Therefore, we are called to fast isolation. Spend time interacting with others. Call that family member. Visit a friend or neighbor. Link and be linked, need and be needed, see and be seen. Refuse to discount your influence, especially in small act and intentionally nurture your God-given web of relationships.
Read John 14:15-22.
Day 13 takes us from Zacchaeus’s joyful Jericho party to yet another dinner held in the home of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Arriving just 6 days prior to the Passover, Jesus sat down at a dinner held in His honor and “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:3)
Each of the Gospels present an account of Jesus being anointed. I had always assumed they were the same story told from different perspectives. I now believe I was wrong. The anointing in Matthew and Mark were likely the same event. It took place two days before the Passover in Simon the Leper’s house in Bethany. The one in Luke took place before John the Baptist was beheaded. And finally the one in John took place 6 days before the Passover in Lazarus’s home. Which means that as Jesus was traveling cross-ward, Jesus was quite aromatic. Nard was a very strong smell and he was essentially covered head to toe in it. It was often used in preparing bodies for burial. When Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss in the garden, he would have been reminded by the fragrance that Father God prepares all things well.
Jesus spent much of His last days at tables, resting in the company of new and old friends. If you only had 6 days to live, how and with whom, would you live them?
Today, we’re called to fast from stinginess. Nard was a very expensive essential oil made from the roots of a plant that only grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China and India. In the account of Jesus’ anointing in Mark, the question was posed, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” Why this waste? Because love does not calculate. What an honor to be remembered as one who loved lavishly. Today, fast stinginess: seek an opportunity to be irrationally lavish toward someone who cannot possibly return the favor. Give because you love. Give without letting reason ration out your love in stingy portions.
Read John 13:23-31