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.”When the great crowd of the 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. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
One of the things this ministry does is publish a quarterly magazine titled Cornerstone. It’s a 92-page, full-color, glossy with production standards that are as high as the best magazines in the world. We are giving away the latest issue free. The cover story is how to spend time in personal prayer and, in these days of lock-down, it is something you may wish to do. You can download a PDF here https://bit.ly/2JM29wr
Obviously, the costs to publish a magazine like this are considerably high, and I am often asked why I spend so much when I can get it printed cheaper and use the money saved for better things, like feeding the poor. So, I can really understand what the woman in today’s story feels. She wipes our Lord’s feet with perfume that cost about a year’s wages — literally — and ALL the apostles wonder what is wrong with her.
In John’s version here, only Judas is blamed, but in Matthew’s version, it says, “When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked (Matthew 26:8). Now, if we are honest — and I hope we ARE honest when we reflect upon Scripture, because only honesty leads to conversion — don’t most of us feel the same? A year’s wages poured out on somebody’s feet. Isn’t that a terrible waste? Yes, no? So, why does Jesus praise her then?
Because Mary exemplifies Jesus’ teaching that “anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). She shows that she has no attachment to SELF as most commonly seen in people. One, there is no attachment to money; we see her pour out this perfume, unmindful of the cost. Two, there is no pride; she applies the perfume to his feet, like a humble servant would.
Three, she doesn’t care for the reaction of people; she knows she will be criticized for her actions but that doesn’t stop her. Four, she understood that extravagant sacrifice was the response to extravagant love. And it this last thing that motivates people to make great sacrifices for God, unmindful of anyone or anything else. We understand his extravagant love. And we respond accordingly.
As we journey through Holy Week may we all realize the great, great love that Jesus has for us, dying for people such as ourselves, and respond by giving of ourselves to him as he gave of himself to us.