Unholy discharges and extravagant outpourings…..

8 03 2011

DAY SIXTY-SIX : Leviticus 15 v. 1 – 16 v. 34; Mark 13 v. 32 – 14 v. 16; Psalm 31 v. 1 – 8

This piece of art, entitled “THE HOPE”, by Kate Austin (see www.christart.co.uk) spoke to me in the light of today’s readings. It’s only the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus which offers us real hope of being clean, being holy.

LEVITICUS
Discharges causing uncleanness – okay, so there next follows a whole chapter on bodily fluids (yeuch !!); for the man, there’s a need for bathing (unclean till evening) for bodily discharges, including semen, and a sin and burnt offering of young pigeons; for the woman, also a need for bathing for the loss of blood (as with the man, anyone or anything who touches him/her, also needs cleansing), and the sacrifice of young pigeons.
My study bible says that at least it shows a promotion of good sexual health, but it also indicates suspicion of the dangers of what might be described today as natural emissions!
How important it was to them to keep clean, in every way.

The Day of Atonement – warnings for Aaron, after the loss of his two sons, not to just enter the Most Holy Place whenever he choses, but rather to follow a set ritual, which will become the most sacred day of the year :
~ a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering
~ wearing the sacred garments
~ for the whole community, he’s to bring two goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering
~ offer the bull and the goats (one will be a sin offering, the other a scapegoat, cast into the desert) as an atonement
~ the goat’s blood is offered, sprinkled on the atonement cover, “In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been.”
~
after the sin offerings, the surviving goat is presented, Aaron places both hands upon it, and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites, then the goat is sent into the desert…
~ the animals are sacrificed and the scapegoat sent away, followed by ritual washing of all involved
~ it’s an annual event, laid down for all generations “then you will be clean from all your sins; it is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves.

I guess the Day of Atonement is a day which unites the whole community in a sort of spiritual spring clean – whatever sins have been committed will be atoned for, people cleansed and put right with God and with each other.

MARK
The Day and Hour Unknown – because the date and time of Jesus’ return us unknown (and unknowable) to us (even to the angels and to Jesus, Himself), we are simply to be on guard, watching constantly for His return. Could be any time. Are we ready ?

Jesus anointed at Bethany – in our OT passage today, we focussed on the Day of Atonement, one of the great festivals. Here we are reminded of the context of Jesus’ last supper, and His coming death and resurrection – the Passover / Feast of Unleavened Bread – the annual reminder of God’s miraculous saving acts, freeing the Israelites from Pharaoh’s grip in Egypt. Jesus is about to lay down His life for the ultimate freedom from all slavery. So, two days before the feast, whilst relaxing in Bethany, a woman pours expensive perfume over Jesus’ head (a form of anointing ? setting Jesus aside for some ‘priceless’ work ?)
Often the motivations for people’s complaints aren’t what they seem at first. Although the complaints are that this perfume could have been sold to make money for the poor, I sense today that those complaining couldn’t cope with the woman’s extravagant devotion, or Jesus’ acceptance of such a show of intimacay. They felt uncomfortable, even jealous, perhaps.
That’s why Jesus says, “Leave her alone”.
He constantly asks us to take our eyes of others’ walk with Him, and to pay closer attention to our own.
 
Poverty is something which will not be tackled by the actions of one person, but by many people, over a long period of time.

It’s all too much for Judas, who has a different sort of revolution in his mind, and he sneaks out to arrange his betrayal……

The Lord’s Supper –
Just like the episode with the colt for the entry into Jerusalem, sending the disciples into the city to meet a man carrying a water-jar, who will lead them to a prepared room, is all very neat – Jesus seemingly in control of even the chance meetings. When we were in the ‘Upper Room’ in Jerusalem, I was reminded (though I’d never thought it before) that it would have been unusual for a man to be carrying a water-jar, leading some to suspect whether the man was part of a male religious community (like the Essenes (Dead Sea Scrolls and all that)), with whom Jesus had some form of connection, and that the home was the centre of just such a community. I guess we’ll never know. But the passage reminds me that, “they found things just as Jesus told them”.
Even as the storm clouds are gathering around Jesus and the disciples, Jesus is orchestrating everything.

As we shall see, tomorrow, the Passover meal as the setting for the Last Supper is so evocative. Freedom bought with the shedding of blood. The bread of life for a life of abundance, not slavery.

PSALM
“O Lord, turn Your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Since You are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of Your name lead and guide me….
Into Your hands I commit my spirit;”

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