The First Disciple: Lent Bible Study 3.7.16

What are we studying?

Throughout the season of Lent, we are going to be taking a look at the gospel liturgical readings, what they say, how they apply to our lives, and what they have to do with Lent.

What we talked about this week

This week we studied John 12:1-8, the story of Jesus being annointed at Bethany. This story is included in all four gospels (Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:1-13, and Luke 7:36-49). John's version is the only version that names the woman who annoints Jesus with perfume as Mary and is also the only scripture that says Judas is the person who had issue with this waste. John writes this story as a set up to the last supper. The only other place the word for dinner is used in John's gospel outside of this story is in reference to the last supper. The same verb used to describe Mary wiping the feet of Jesus is used to describe Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. All of this happens in Bethany, the sight of the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and the reason that the Sanhedrin begins to conspire to kill Jesus in John's gospel.

So what are we to take from this well known story, told a different way in each of the gospels? What is John trying to tell us through this story? John is the only one that draws attention to the woman enough to name her. In this act Mary accomplishes two important tasks:

  1. Mary humbles herself and washes the feet of another, an act that Jesus will command his disciples to do in six days at the last supper.
  2. Mary recognizes Jesus' divinity by annointing him, something the disciples will struggle to understand until after his resurrection. 

In this short story we are given the fullness of what it means to be a disciple. To recognize Jesus for who he is, our divine savior, and to serve others in love. Gail R. O'Day, Associate Professor of Homiletics at Candler School of Theology writes in her commentary on John,

The Fourth Evangelist's eschatological vision of a community shaped by love and grounded in relationship to Jesus is first enacted by a female disciple who by conventional standards has no claim to that position (see the disciples' response to Jesus' conversation with a woman in John 4:27). Discipleship in the Fourth Gospel does not conform to some of the church's stereotypical assumptions about the composition of Jesus' circle of disciples. For example, the Twelve as a fixed group of male disciples are nearly invisible in this Gospel (John 6:67-71). Jesus' disciples are persons, like Mary, whom he loves and who love him and live out that love.

So if being a disciple is someone who loves Jesus, recognizes him for who he is, and then acts and lives out that love, how are you doing as a disciple of Christ? Do you struggle to recognize Jesus for who he is and what he does? Do you struggle to love others and serve them humbly? It's something to think about this lenten season.