NewWay people logo

New Way of Being Church
About Us What we do News Membership Contact us
Publications Reviews Reflections Links

Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom

Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 12.1-8 "Tension at the Table "

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sharing Together:

Recall an experience of receiving generous hospitality in someone else’s home.

A Window on the Text

Passover is imminent, and once again Jesus finds hospitality and warmth at the home of Lazarus and his two sisters. Here for a moment is a time for rest and refreshment with his close friends, before the looming confrontation with the authorities in Jerusalem. A special meal has been prepared by Martha in honour of their frequent guest. Particularly in this intimate haven, one would expect unity and love, yet there is a discordant note within the fellowship – not that unusual, perhaps, amongst ordinary families and groups.

They didn’t know then, but this is the start of Jesus’ final week: his arrest, trial and crucifixion are now days away. It is the last time they will be able to entertain him. They have little time left together though they don’t realise it. Time of fellowship is precious.

We last met Martha and Mary in this gospel when their brother Lazarus died, and was restored to them by Jesus. Even then there was a hint of reproof, from each of them, when they greeted him once he had finally arrived (John Ch 11.21, 32).

On another occasion when Jesus stayed at their home (Luke 10.30) there had been obvious tension between the two sisters. Martha felt that she was doing all the hard work in the home, and was annoyed at Mary’s doing nothing to help. Then, perhaps to Martha’s chagrin, Mary was the one who was praised by Jesus! How often a critical remark and a sharp tongue can spoil fellowship! It is not hard to imagine that relations were often strained between sisters with such very different personalities sharing a home (one rather ‘dreamy’, the other rather prickly and always ‘busy’).

At the dinner table Mary is in the limelight again, as she anoints Jesus’ feet with precious ointment (v3). She is criticised this time by Judas, probably expressing what the rest of the disciples were thinking. But Jesus recognises that, while Mary’s gesture may have seemed ‘over the top’, her action sprang from genuine love and devotion. So he turns a situation of embarrassment and shock, both at Judas’ outburst and Mary’s behaviour, into a cryptic anticipation of his coming death (v7). An invaluable grace in any community is the desire and ability to turn a potential threat to harmony into something constructive and positive.

Responding as a community
  1. Do you think we really value the hospitality of a home as an important ministry to outsiders, to strangers, or to one another?

  2. Shared meals were an important feature in the culture of Jesus’ day, and particularly of the early Christian communities (see Acts 2.42ff). Are they in ours?

  3. We may have unrealistic expectations for harmony in Christian families and groups. There is often unresolved tension just beneath the surface. How do you deal with this?

  4. Do we criticise expressions of devotion, or the styles of worship, of others when we don’t understand them or know what their inner motivation is?

  5. Awkward moments can be turned by an appropriate word, especially when we try to see the best in others who are different. Have you experience of this? How do we cope with an instinctive irritation about others in the group?
Praying Together

Take 10-15 minutes - using a map, bible and candle, and some tea lights.

  1. On a small low table place the 3 symbols:

    first - a Map of your area, where we are, ‘Our reality’, the people who live in our community;

    second - a Bible, on the Map: the story of the community of faith; the story of Jesus and the early Christian communities;

    third - a Candle, by the map and bible: the symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit who links our present reality with the world and the bible.

  2. Light the candle, with the words: ‘The Lord is here. Response: The Spirit is with us.

  3. Read Ephesians 4.1-7

    Coordinator says: Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

    Spend 5 minutes in silent reflection.

  4. Thank God (in silence) for one another in the group. Light a tea light for each one present and place it on the table.

    Coordinator: Jesus said, ‘a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.’

    All: Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

  5. Say The Grace together.


Going Deeper



Building Kingdom-shaped communities
  © New Way of Being Church 2007