The Gospel of John 12:1-8
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 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 perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (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.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Let us pray: Loving God, how lavishly you pour out the costly gift of your grace upon us. Fill our homes and our lives with the fragrance of your love, so that we may show your glory and serve your people. through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
Note: Nard, also called spikenard, nardin, and muskroot, is a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas and it is very expensive and Mary used a whole pound of this pure perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet. This much nard is worth about three hundred denarii which is equal to about a year’s wages. A farm worker at that time received one denarius for 12 hours work.
Unlike Mary, we know what plainly lies ahead for Jesus. And like her, can we take what we have set aside for our planned future, and instead commit it today for the passion of loving Jesus. Even though loving Jesus is not easy. It wasn’t easy for Mary to know what was to happen. When it comes to making decisions or doing things, do we ask ourselves are we doing something that honors or points back to Jesus. We can ask for God’s help making Him our top priority. We need to be willing to give everything for Him because He gave everything for us. That’s worth celebrating! In this passage, John has Mary portray the shocking intimacy of loyalty, trust, and bonding with Jesus that over-rides cultural norms; and contrasts that with the disloyalty and dishonesty of Judas. Judas just doesn’t get it. Here, on the edge of his dastardly act of ultimate betrayal, He criticizes Mary and pretends to be a caring and faithful follower of Jesus. Judas appears to be upset who asks, why don’t we sell this stuff instead and give the money to the poor? I think that a lot of us can relate to Judas’ point here. This self-righteous man, who had followed Jesus as a disciple, was a hypocrite and a thief. But perhaps the only thing worse than not caring about the poor is pretending to care about them. He hears the words of Jesus but doesn’t get them in his heart.
What is significant in this Gospel is the contrast between two figures. One is good, the other bad. One is a child of the light, the other a child of darkness. One’s name is Mary, the other Judas. Mary is to be commended; her ways imitated. Judas is to be condemned; his ways forsaken.
John emphasized the anointing of Jesus’ feet to accentuate the loyalty and trust she had for Jesus. The image of Mary, the friend of Jesus, bowing at his feet and using her precious hair to catch the excess oil so that all it might serve her master, is an incredibly moving image of humble, extravagant, and authentic worship. That is the image that John wanted to highlight because it supported the theme that he was developing in his Gospel. His theme, how could we not fall before our Savior with a spirit of humility considering all that he has done for us? Mary helps us to recognize who Jesus is, and who we are called to be as his faithful followers. To follow Jesus means more than just acting the part.
Let us Pray: O Lord, deliver us from contending that we are righteous before You because of who we are and what we have done. Surely, we are sinners who only deserve Your wrath. Cause us to turn from our worthlessness and hold fast to the surpassing worth of Christ Jesus and His righteousness for us. This we pray in your name our Lord and Savior. Amen