The Holy Gospel according to St. John 12:1-8
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to
Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
12:2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus
was one of those at the table with him. 12:3 Mary took a pound of
costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped
them with her hair.
The house was filled with the fragrance of the
12:4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples
(the one who was about to betray him), said, 12:5 "Why was this
perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to
the poor?" 12:6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor,
but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to
steal what was put into it.) 12:7 Jesus said, "Leave her alone.
She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.
12:8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have
The Gospel of the Lord . . .
The Fragrance of Discipleship
In today's Gospel we witness Mary's great
affection for Jesus as she pours out this expensive perfume over
Jesus' feet and wipes them with her own hair. What great devotion
Mary demonstrates toward the Lord Jesus!! It is a kind of
outpouring of love for the Savior that few can share with Jesus,
save those who have known the depth of his love and pouring out of
himself on their behalf.
Such acts of devotion to Jesus put us in mind of
the saints and mystics of old who expressed their love for Jesus
with extraordinary giving and abandon – that is, they gave
themselves wholly to Jesus–sometimes even giving their lives.
When we hear about Mary pouring the perfume over
Jesus' feet and wiping them with her hair, this scene may make US
uncomfortable. After all, this is a very intimate thing that Mary
is doing! I would even suggest that from our perspective, we are
probably more comfortable with Judas' outlook on the scene than we
are with what Mary does for Jesus.
After all, Judas was being "practical" – whereas
Mary was being "wasteful" of the precious ointment . . .
never-mind that Judas "helped himself" to the moneybag now and
then . . . . Mary's actions are just too intimate for us to relate
Perhaps if we reconsider what all had gone on
previously to today's scene, it might be helpful in understanding
Remember that a few weeks prior to this event
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
Lazarus had died and was buried – placed into a
sealed tomb for four days! Remember Martha's "practical" warning?
"Lord, He's been in the tomb four days – surely by now there is a
bad odor -- a stench!"
But Jesus speaks of having faith and if the on
lookers have faith, then Jesus says, "you will see the glory of
God." And so the grave stone is rolled away and Jesus prays, and
Lazarus "Comes Forth From the Tomb." He is resurrected from the
Now it is several weeks later . . . Jesus and
his disciples have been much less public in their appearances
because the chief priests and Temple authorities are trying to
capture Jesus in order to kill him . . . And now it is the week
before Passover– and Jesus is in fact, slowly but surely, making
his way to Jerusalem -- were he will be crucified. — Lazarus'
house in Bethany, is along the way and that is how we have arrived
at Today's story of Mary's act of devotion and faithful
As Jesus and his disciples enter into the house
of Lazarus, there is much familiar about the place. We can imagine
that Martha is cooking and serving and is busy (as usual!) In the
kitchen. The men are at the table along with Mary. We can imagine
the scenery. Much laughter as the men tell their stories about
keeping their distance from the authorities both Roman and Jewish,
"We have been down at the town of Ephraim in the
region near to the wilderness," says James to Lazarus, "There we
have been able to move about more freely, since the High Priest
didn't have any "eyes" there looking out for us." Peter, grabbing
a whole handful of the delicacies Martha has just placed on the
table, remarks, "These young grape leaves sure are delicious
Martha, what's in the filling?"
Lazarus is seated beside Jesus and has a certain
glow about him. Words come awkwardly for Lazarus as he explains,
"Lord I still cannot express my gratitude for the power of your
prayer acting on my behalf- – I was dead and was pulled back to
the land of the living by your Word – I had gone down to Scheol
but was restored to my life . . How Lord? I just can't understand
it, but I thank you for all you have done."
Peter continues to eat heartily from Martha's
Table, oblivious to the others around him until he notices the
fragrance of the Nard. "What's that smell?" Peter remarks,
thinking to himself that there may be one more delicious and
unusual dish that Martha has prepared.
Judas has already located the source of the
fragrance and has made his judgement about the situation. Seeing
Mary anointing the feet of Jesus and wiping them with her hair,
like a Servant is too much for Judas. So he remarks, "Why was this
perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to
the poor?" . . . .
As we consider how John the Gospel writer has
painted this picture – we should note that John portrays Mary in
the form of a disciple who has the heart of a "Servant" and she is
a lavish "Giver" of an extravagant gift to Jesus. We are further
reminded of the Servant image when we picture Jesus teaching his
disciples at the last supper – Jesus says, "Unless I wash you –
you have no place with me." and "If I, your Lord and Teacher, have
washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. For I have
set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to
Through Mary's action we see that she has
understood the genuine qualities of disciples of the Lord.
Generous in service and giving. MARY GETS IT!!
Perhaps this is what we must take from this
lesson so near to the end of our Lenten pilgrimage. We should be
taking in the fragrance of the aromatic oils Mary has poured on
Jesus' feet. We should be considering the connection with Jesus
death and burial, soon to come and at the same time we should be
considering Lazarus' presence at the table. Christ is not just a
man who came to Teach and Heal. He is the Savior of the World, God
in Human flesh. His death and resurrection are going to accomplish
Salvation for all. And his rising from the grave becomes our
guarantee that we will also be raised. This is our Faith and life
And so there is hope for every new day that God
gives us here in this life. We will no longer look back longing
for what once was. But we smell the oil of anointing and remember
to look ahead for what God will do next - - "THE NEW THING" and
like Mary, we become intimately involved with God's action in the
world today and tomorrow. Thanks be to God for such an example.
Let us Pray
We don't always know how to respond to every
situation that comes into our lives and into the world. Give us
wisdom, generous hearts and a great love for all, that we might be
devoted disciples like Mary, filled with faith, devotion, and good
works. For it is in your name we pray. Amen
more writings of Pastor Jon