March 29, 2021
John 12: 1 – 11 CEB
Ginny West Case
Smoky Mountain District
12 Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Lazarus and his sisters hosted a dinner for him. Martha served and Lazarus was among those who joined him at the table. 3 Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound,[a] of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair. The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume. 4 Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), complained, 5 “This perfume was worth a year’s wages![b] Why wasn’t it sold and the money given to the poor?” (6 He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would take what was in it.)
7 Then Jesus said, “Leave her alone. This perfume was to be used in preparation for my burial, and this is how she has used it. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you won’t always have me.”
9 Many Jews learned that he was there. They came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 The chief priests decided that they would kill Lazarus too. 11 It was because of Lazarus that many of the Jews had deserted them and come to believe in Jesus.
Lent, it seemed, was longer than usual this year. In some ways it feels as if we have been in a season of Lent for over a year as COVID19 has restricted our activities and our gatherings: we have missed out on many family celebrations and hugs; our churches have been closed to in-person worship and gatherings. We are ready for Easter!
Yet we must first go through Passion Week. The German theologian Martin Kähler famously described Mark’s Gospel as a “passion narrative with an extended introduction." This description could also be extended to the other gospels as they, too, spend a great deal of time in what we call Holy Week. The writers were emphasizing the importance of Jesus' last days before the Cross.
Can you imagine the agony, the anger, and the angst of Jesus and his disciples as they considered what was happening? In the midst of this turmoil, Jesus went to be with friends. Martha did what Martha did - she prepared a meal. And Mary did what Mary did - she listened, and she anointed his feet with oil.
What a waste! What extravagance! Yet Mary got it! She knew Jesus needed to be comforted in the midst of his pain. Theologian Paul Tillich wrote, "She has performed an act of holy waste growing out of the abundance of her heart."
“The history of humankind,” Tillich continues, “is the history of men and women who wasted themselves and were not afraid to do so. They did not fear to waste themselves in the service of a new creation. They wasted out of the fullness of their hearts.”
As we are surrounded by folks who face the challenges of agonies, anger and angst, may we be like Mary and find ways to waste ourselves to share God's steadfast love with all. May we be brave enough to give our best so that all will experience the fullness of a new creation.
“Without the abundance and heart, nothing great can happen,” Tillich wrote. “Do not suppress in yourselves the abundant heart, the waste of self-surrender. [. . .] Keep yourself open for the creative moment. Do not suppress the impulse to do what Mary did at Bethany. You will be reproached as she was. But Jesus was on her side and he is also on yours.”
Gracious God, enable us to pour out abundant love as you have done so for us. As Lent continues to bring us closer and closer to Holy Week, may we be courageous to experience the love of Christ our Lord and to walk boldly with Him during this time.