Monday in Holy Week, April 3 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?”

Scripture: John 12:1-11

 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b]” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

Some thoughts:

How is it that two people can look at one situation and see things so completely differently? For the Jews, touching the feet of someone was very degrading experience, normally reserved for slaves or people of low honor. Yet in this public setting, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. In her act, we are reminded of Jesus’ washing his disciples’ feet a few days from now, both acts of which were culturally inappropriate for a normal person. Yet Mary saw Jesus as one to honor while from Judas came a disingenuous condemnation. John is blunt in telling us why Judas responded the way he did. The actions days later would reveal the true heart of each; Mary was among the first to see the risen Christ, and Judas hanged himself in remorse.

How does what Mary did relate to what Jesus said in the passage above? There is a connection. The perfume which Mary used to anoint Jesus was worth a year’s wages. It may well have been her dowry for marriage. But her humbling act anointed Jesus for his death and burial. Mary saw the deeper significance of the moment, that of preparing him for his departure from this world. He accepted what she did and gave Judas a curt response, “Leave her alone.” (Jesus never spoke to any of the other disciples that way.) Jesus was not saying don’t help the poor. He was saying Mary recognized the significance of the moment.

How many significant moments with the Lord have we missed? Our head was elsewhere, and we failed to see the God given opportunity to honor our Lord right in front of us. Mary was focused on her Lord, oblivious of those around her or what they thought and she gave her all.

Music: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”   –Isaac Watts    Keith and Kristyn Getty

Bonus: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”   A family gathering to sing!

Prayer: Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: grant your people grace to love what you have commanded and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.        -from Book of Common Prayer