Lenten meditations will be published every Saturday throughout the season, featuring daily devotionals for the coming week.
Lent comes from the Middle English word "Lenten" which means "spring." Christians understand God to have created the world and then sent his Son to redeem it when it had fallen into sin. As we enter spring these devotions show times God's Son Jesus interacted with flowers and plants of the good creation.
When Jesus was born, he and his parents had visitors from the east whom we call Magi or Wise Men. When they found the child, they offered gifts of gold for his kingship, frankincense for his holiness, and myrrh for his suffering. Myrrh is the gum resin of a small tree. When the bark is pierced, a thick white gum appears which hardens and turns reddish on exposure to air. Myrrh was an ingredient in holy oil for anointing and a salve for the purification of the dead. Jesus received the gift of myrrh at his nativity and at death. Have you ever received a gift to mark your life?
Jesus speaks of giving large amounts of mint or rue or other herbs but neglecting justice and the love of God. Rue is an herb with important culinary and medicinal uses in ancient times. It was also a chief ingredient in antidotes for poisoning. Here Jesus is explaining to his audience that just giving gifts, money, produce or herbs were not all that was expected of God's children. They are to seek justice and practice the love of God shown to them. Are we only writing checks instead of giving of ourselves, too?
Jesus told a story about a farmer who sowed good wheat seeds in his field. But when he slept, an enemy sowed tares or weeds among the good seeds. The servants were surprised and wanted to rip out the weeds. Jesus used the story to explain how good persons and evil persons thrive together yet will be separated in the end. These weeds or tares looked like the wheat that had been sown but could not be positively identified until they had grown their roots around the wheat. Pulling the weeds would destroy the wheat. If someone saw our life, would they be able to identify us as one who lives for Jesus the Christ?
When Jesus was having dinner with Simon the leper, a woman entered Simon's house and anointed the head of Jesus with nard or spikenard. This herb has a pleasing fragrance which was desired for perfumes. Spikenard comes from Nepal and the valleys of Tibet, which made it a very costly item. Some of the diners at Simon's table were appalled - why put his stuff on Jesus? It could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus recognized the valuable gift he had been given. When we give gifts to the Lord, do we give our very best?
Before Jesus' crucifixion, the soldiers wound some thorns into a crown and put it on his head to mock him. The crown of thorns or Jerusalem thorn is a plant that grows throughout the Holy Land. I saw some growing in the fields near Bethlehem. It is a spiky plant that has long, sharp thorns. Even lightly placing such a crown on Jesus would have been painful. It was part of the humiliation Jesus endured for us. Does someone making fun of you cause real pain? How do we hurt people in playful acts?
The soldiers who were preparing to crucify Jesus gave him wine, sour wine, or vinegar mixed with gall to drink. Gall is the juice of the opium plant, a narcotic that makes one insensible and induces sleep. When Jesus identified the substance he refused it. Even in his last moments, Jesus did not take the easy way out that was offered by the soldiers. He went to the cross knowingly and truly felt the punishment that was intended for us sinners. Jesus endured the pain and suffering for us.
The aloe is a succulent plant with thick fleshy leaves forming a rosette just above the root. It belongs to the lily family. The leaves contain aloin, a substance that can be dissolved in water and added to sweet smelling incenses for purifying the bodies of the departed. When the body of Jesus was removed from the cross, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took his body and prepared it using myrrh and aloes and laid it in the tomb. We, too, care for the bodies of our loved ones who have died. This act of devotion was done out of pure love. When do we act out of pure love when there is no one to thank us?