Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Ezekiel 12 – Ezekiel is asked by the Lord to act out or “mime” what will soon be happening to the people of Israel – that they will be led out of the city into exile because of the terrible things they’ve been doing. He does do this. He packs his bags just as the king of Judah will soon have to pack up his bags and escape through a hole in the city’s wall. He does it as instructed during the day and makes sure that everyone can see him acting it out. But I don’t think he gets much response.
He also mimes the restlessness and anxiety the people of Jerusalem are doomed to experience because of the violence that awaits them.
He comments on a proverb that has currency in his time: “Days go by and visions fade” (12:22). He is to let the people know that the day is coming “when every vision will come true . . . What I say is said and will come true” (12:28).
Ezekiel 13 – Ezekiel must testify against those who say they are prophets but who “make up prophecies out of their own heads” (13:2). The passage mostly points to those prophets who “have misled my people by saying: Peace! When there is no peace” (13:10). Their prophecies do not cause people to react forcefully – they cause people to plaster over things, not deal with restructuring what will really provide security to their city – FAITHFULNESS to their Lord.
The women of Jerusalem also “make up prophecies out of their own heads” (13:17). “Since you distress with lies the heart of the upright man whom I would never distress, and since you encourage the wicked man not to give up his wicked ways and find life again, very well, you will have no more empty visions, and you will not make any more predictions. I mean to rescue my people from you, and then you will learn that I am Yahweh” (13:22-23).
Like today, there were many men AND women who simply made up predictions about the future, made claims they said came from God but were just full of themselves. The question of how a person with a prophetic call from God can be discerned by the people of God was as much a problem in the 6th century BC as it is today. Maybe that’s why the churches have mostly not encouraged people to think God is still bestowing this gift.
John 12:1-26 – Six days before Passover, Jesus is in Bethany. At the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, they serve him dinner. Martha serves and Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume, wiping his feet with her hair. This detail may cause confusion over the other similar story in Luke misplaced—she is not the woman who was a sinner from the Luke story. Judas becomes annoyed because of the extravagance—not, the text says, “because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief” (12:6). Jesus tells him to leave Mary alone: “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me” (12:8). The crowds come to see him and Lazarus; the chief priests now plan to take Lazarus’ life as well.
I love this scene of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive nard. It shows the depth of devotion that existed among these friends - Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus. I think Ray Brown thought there was a chance that Lazarus might have been the model for the “Beloved Disciple” rather than John himself? I like the idea very much – or better yet one of the women. In fact these days I am finding all of these possibilities less appealing than the idea that all of those who opened their lives to Christ are his “beloved” disciples.
The next day, a great crowd in Jerusalem greets Jesus with palm branches and shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” (12:13) The disciples do not understand everything that is happening at this time; “but when Jesus [is] glorified, then they [will] remember that these things had been written of him and had been done to him”(12:16). The Pharisees worry about his growing popularity.
There are also Greeks among those worshipping at the festival. They approach Philip, saying they want to meet Jesus. Jesus says to them that his hour has not yet come, that the grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die before it bears fruit (12:24).