Psalm 38:9-16; 
Exodus 29:1-30; Matthew 26:1-13

Late today.  Wrote this on UA1599 from ORD to SFO and just posting this evening…

Psalm 38:9-16  The psalmist describes a descent into what today we would call physical and spiritual depression:  “I grow numb and am utterly crushed. I roar from my heart’s churning.” (38:9)  And the perfect description of emotional loss: “My heart spins around, my strength forsakes me, and the light of my eyes, too, is gone from me.”  (11)  But there is worse to come as even his friends and family abandon him: “My friends and companions stand off from my plight and my kinsmen stand far away.” (12)  Not just abandonment, but active hostility by his enemies: “They lay snares, who seek my life and want my harm.”

This must be what the dark night of the soul feels like.  Physically prostrate, emotionally empty, abandoned by everyone, oppressed by those seeking only his destruction.  I’m relieved to write, “this must be what it feels like,” since I have never experienced so deep a darkness or intense enmity.

But when all else is lost and the future bodes only hopelessness, then that is when God’s love and goodness are most visible.  That is the implication here, as our psalmist knows hop comes from just one place: “For in You, O LORD, I have hoped.” And in hope comes faith’s assurance: “You will answer, O Master, my God.” (19)

Exodus 29:1-30  To our modern eyes, all the blood and gore of sacrifice is more repugnant than holy.  Even though I know intellectually that blood is the required atonement for sin before God, the lovingly detailed description here of how the bull is slaughtered and its blood and viscera deposited on the altar is a distraction from reflecting on the reason for the sacrifice in the first place.  For me, this is more an abattoir than a holy place.

Yet, it is what God demanded, and as Alter points out, the ancients saw blood and oil as purification.  Personally, I’m glad we’ve preserved the oil for the sacrament of baptism and immensely grateful that Jesus’ blood put paid to blood sacrifice.

Matthew 26:1-13  Matthew uses parallel narration here: Jesus announces once again and more directly than ever to his inner circle, “You know that after two days…the Son of Man will be handed over and crucified.” (26:2)  Matthew does not record the reaction of the disciples, but based on what we know from the accounts of the Upper Room, there was doubtless total denial.  The disciples had heard it all before but have chosen to disbelieve.  The power of denial is immense, and we, too, are capable of immense denial, especially about many of the more challenging passages in the Olivet discourse Jesus has just concluded.

In parallel, the Gospel writer describes the plotting of “the chief priests and the elders,” who “conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.” (26:4)  Notice “conspire” and “stealth.”  The actions are those of men cowed by Jesus’ popularity with the crowd, but who will eventually have their way.

And men have been plotting ever since.  Which is why we should not be surprised when we witness efforts worldwide to suppress Jesus’ message.  And why we should not think of the US as a “Christian nation” that somehow just accepts Jesus’ revolutionary message as the “correct” stats quo.  And why we should be careful not to allow Jesus’ message to be co-opted by the culture.

Instead, we are to be like the woman who anoints Jesus with the costly ointment: willing to sacrifice all because of our love for our Lord and Savior.


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