The Lazarus Effect [SSL 310]

Jesus uses a shocking and hilarious hyperbole “a camel going through the opening of a needle” to speak of how absurd it is to think that the rich can be a part of what God is up to. His students are dumbfounded. The camel is the biggest animal they know about, but the opening of a needle? How tiny.

We might say, it’s easier to play golf by using a boulder for a golfball or it’s easier to climb a greased pole the size of the Empire State building with no arms and legs.

This means It is patently absurd to think that the rich will catch on to what God is doing and join in.

Yet, we also know that some wealthy people were part of the Kingdom of God in the Bible and some were as early Christians. Something is different about those people that is rare and inspired and few of us will catch on for ourselves. Enjoy the episode and pass it along.

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Mary the Tower [SSL 240]

Featuring the work and astonishing findings of Elizabeth Schrader on a towering figure of the Early Christian Church.

Research of the earliest manuscript of the Gospel of John indicates that Lazarus and Mary didn’t have a sister!

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Holy Week Reflection: Anointing the Anointed


Reading for today:

 John 12:  Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.4But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said,5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.


Mary of Bethany wasn’t caught up in the excitement of a political revolution. James and John were gunning for cabinet positions but Mary saw Jesus as Anointed King and sacrificial Lamb of God. In the days before high-flow showers and frequent bathing, this costly fragrance would have lasted for days, and even while he hung on the cross.

Jesus our sweet and lasting fragrance.




O’ God,

Give us the fragrance of the anointing of your Holy Spirit. 

Fill our lives with the aroma of grace.

May we understand your sacrifice

And prepare for our own burial

And rebirth with you



image found here:

on “Martha Stewart of Bethany”

rembrandtHere’s a humorous and poignant lenten reflection from the irrepressible Prof Doug Jackson


The Lazaruses are a happy family – one of the few that Scripture gives us – and their happiness forms a complex choreography. There’s Martha Stewart of Bethany, very active and Baptist, worrying that the unleavened bread won’t rise and carving radishes into the shape of Torah scrolls. There’s the liturgical Lazarus, playing the gracious host, his very presence a passive but massive proof of the power of his guest. And there’s Mary, an early-day Pentecostal who simply will not learn propriety, performing over-the-top acts of quasi-erotic worship that bust the budget and embarrass the guests.

Read the rest


The Triumphal Entry, or Jesus Takes a Baby Donkey Ride

Palm Sunday art


What of this Jesus, and his famous donkey ride?

It seems a bit strange, no?

What is called The Triumphal Entry is celebrated each year, on Palm Sunday, a week before the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (most often called Easter, which a a variation of the name of a pagan god, but I digress.)

It’ll take you 45 seconds to read the short donkey ride story here: Matthew 21:1-9.

The crowds heading to Jerusalem for Passover feasting were caught up in the pandemonium of this celebrity sensation–a peasant healer from the boondocks, who had just raised a dead man, four days after he died (his friend Lazarus in the town of Bethany).

Hopes were high that this miracle-worker could liberate the Jews from their Roman oppressors. Some 250,000 lambs would be roasted, likely feeding more than 2 and a half million people during this festival. So, the throng was indeed enormous.

In virtual mob hysteria, hopeful Jews stripped nearby palm trees of their fronds, and threw their coats on the road to pave this unorganized and roisterous parade. A hundred years prior, war hero Simon Maccabaeus was welcomed in the same manner after his conquest over Syria. Now Jews  again shouted “Hosanna”, which means “save we pray”. They yelled out the call from Psalm 118:26–a song of deliverance, conquest, and rescue.

Several times previously, Jesus had escaped the momentum of enthralled crowds who hoped to make him their rebel king by sheer force of mob will. Desperation was in the air. They longed for rescue, but Jesus was not that kind of King. He rebuffed all attempts at typical authority, political prestige, religious posturing, or military command.  As he put it to Roman authorities, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He came mildly, to be a selected as our king of hearts, and to have victory over our sin and brokenness–reconciling us again to our Creator, a holy and good God.

Fulfilling a prophecy from Zechariah, hundreds of years earlier (Zechariah (9:9)), Jesus rode a plodding little colt of a donkey into the city. The colt was encouraged to continue by keeping its mother in the lead.

For Jews, the donkey was considered a conveyance for the noble classes, and ridden by Jewish priests or nobility. It was also a helpful metaphor to display the Prince of Peace–the true Savior. It drew a sharp contrast against the mood of the raucous Zealots.

This type of entry marked a vast difference from the Roman commanders who would ride in celebratory victory pageants atop their mighty war horses. Wagons full of pillaged gold and silver rode along with the procession through grand Roman archways. Musicians and carriers of fragrant incense would accompany the cavalcade. Captives and conquered enemy honchos were chained and paraded –all for vanity’s sake.

Many Jews hoped for the dream-Messiah of the military persuasion. That was the glory they wishes for.

Jesus was misunderstood in his entry. The mob would show its intrinsic fickleness when, just days later, in bitter disappointment, they would turn on their would-be Messiah, screaming “Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar!” to the local Roman governor, Pilate.

I have a spiritual challenge to give you this weekend. It is to respond in word and deed to this surprising action of God, in human form.

In Christian circles, this season is sometimes called, Holy Week. It has nothing to do with the week itself, but rather it refers to setting aside time to recount the stories and consider this Prince of Peace: his nature; his life and ministry to the needy, poor, and sick; his unjust execution; and the power of his Resurrection to life, witnessed by over 500 people.

Once confronted with this story that changed the world, each must ask, “Who is this Jesus?” and “How must I respond?” Are we willing to give our heart to this lowly yet almighty King, the Prince of Peace?

How will the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah change who you become? It is your saving grace.

Please share your thoughts, or Palm Sunday & Eastertide reflections.