Imagining what Jesus’ last days were like for his disciples
Reflection for Monday of Holy Week
You can find the readings here.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation.” (Ps 27:1a)
According to the Gospels, Jesus foresaw his own death. In the Gospel of Matthew, for example, he shares with his disciples that “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer… and be killed and on the third day be raised again.” (16:21)
Today’s Gospel tells the story of one of Jesus’ last meals with his followers. Martha served and Lazarus was present. Perhaps his friend Mary knew what was to come, and that’s why she anointed his feet. Perhaps his followers knew as well.
What was the mood? What was it like for his followers who had come to know him intimately, and now realized their time with him was coming to an end? Not that he was a saintly man, but I think of my grandfather’s final days. We knew the end was near and my family cherished those moments. We told him how much we loved him and thanked him for all he did for us.
I want to remember not only the Lord’s own suffering, but how his followers suffered.
That was 20 years ago, but still today, I remember so many details. Those well-intentioned words some offered us, like “he’s in heaven now,” did not sooth our aching hearts. He was gone, and we didn’t want him to be.
But what would it be like for those who came to recognize Jesus as Lord? I think I’d be reluctant to accept it, like I think Peter was. Frankly, I think I’d be mostly in denial. But some part of me would know it was at least possible. I can imagine that, at that dinner at Martha and Mary’s, there was some sadness even in their laughter. And Judas, perhaps also in denial, saw Mary’s anointing as wasteful.
“Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor, but you do not always have me.”
And after the dinner, perhaps outside, they perhaps whispered to each other. “What did he mean, we will not always have him?” Or maybe even, “So it is true. The day of his burial is near.” Could some of those present, with Lazarus in mind, have even dared to believe in the resurrection?
This week, as we finish our Lenten season, I will keep those first followers of Jesus in mind. Remembering them in my prayers will help me enter more deeply into these highest of holy days. I want to remember not only the Lord’s own suffering, but how his followers suffered. Jesus was victorious. But while I cannot forget his resurrection, I cannot allow myself to minimize his suffering and the suffering of those who first loved him.