Summary: A sermon for the 5th Sunday in Lent, series C

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5th Sunday in Lent, March 25, 2007, “Series C”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ, you fulfilled your promise to redeem the world. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your Word, that we might not only more fully appreciate our Lord’s gift of himself for our redemption, but also inspire us to serve you and your church with thanksgiving. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

Our Gospel lesson for this morning has some similarities with the stories of the anointing of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. In these two Gospels, Jesus is having dinner at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany, two days before the Passover. While Jesus was sitting at the table, an unknown woman comes in with an alabaster jar of costly ointment of nard, breaks it open and pours it on Jesus’ head.

Then we are told that some who were present became angry and scolded the woman, calling it a waste of money, since the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus then responds to their anger in a similar way as in our Gospel lesson for this morning.

But in John’s Gospel, there are some unique differences to this story, which bring it alive with meaning. This should not surprise us, for unlike the Synoptic Gospels, which tend to focus on providing us with a chronological sequence to the events in the life of Christ, John’s Gospel is more concerned with helping us realize the significance of these events.

In John’s Gospel, the time line in the events of the life of Christ is not viewed from a chronological perspective, but, if I might use what my confirmation kids refer to as one of my fancy words, John uses a kairotic time line. Kairos is a Greek term which means, “the time is right” for a changing event to occur.

More specifically, according to John’s Gospel, the time was right for God to fulfill his promise of redemption. The time was right, had come to be, as Isaiah expresses in our first lesson for this morning, when he declares that God is “about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

Thus, when John’s Gospel makes reference to time, it is for the specific purpose of helping us understand that in the events of the life of Jesus, the time had come for God to do a new thing. In Jesus, the time was right for God to redeem the world from sin and death – for Jesus is the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

According to Frederick A. Niedner, in his commentary on our lesson for this morning, “John’s placement of this event six days before Passover, in stead of the Synoptic Gospel’s two days before, holds a key to its meaning… According to Exodus 12:3, preparation for the Passover includes selecting on the tenth day of the month of Nisan a lamb without blemish or spot to reserve for sacrifice (so that Israel might observe the Passover, recalling God’s act of deliverance from their bondage to slavery in Egypt)… John has located the anointing story of Jesus in the sequence of days leading up to Passover so as to make this scene the moment of ritually selecting “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” [1] End quote.

In addition, Dr. Niedner points out that unlike the Synoptic Gospels, which chronologically place Jesus being crucified on the day following the Passover meal in the upper room, John’s Gospel depicts Jesus being slaughtered at noon, on the Day of Preparation (the day before the seder meal of Passover). This was precisely the same time that the sacrifice of the festival lambs began at the temple in Jerusalem, for the celebration of Passover. [2]

There is no doubt that John’s Gospel utilizes his Kairotic time line to help us realize, that just as the time had come for God to act in the past to deliver Israel from physical bondage, the time had come for God to do a new thing – to deliver the world from sin and death. And the means by which God would accomplish our deliverance, was through the sacrifice of Jesus, who would become for us God’s own Lamb.

But there are other aspects to John’s story of the anointing of Jesus that also differ from the account of this event in Matthew and Mark, which also impacts its meaning. Although each of the Gospels tell us that this event took place in Bethany, John tells us that the anointing of Jesus took place at the home of Lazarus, not Simon the leper. And John also is specific in naming the persons who are present.

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