The Gospel according to John (12:1-11)
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.
Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to pray. I want to listen to all you have to tell me this week as you prepare for and undergo your Passion.
Encountering Christ: There is so much happening in this passage from scripture. Jesus was with His disciples at the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. He regularly spent time at their home and was close to them. This meal took place just before Jesus entered into Jerusalem for the first Palm Sunday and Holy Week. It was six days before Jesus would die on the cross.
If you recall, Lazarus had recently been raised from the dead by Jesus and also that Mary, Lazarus’ sister, was deeply devoted to Jesus and is recorded as the one who sat at His feet, while her sister Martha served. During this visit, Mary offered another act of devotion to Jesus when she anointed Him with “a liter of costly perfumed oil.” She offered Him an act of love and devotion. Jesus was not downplaying the importance of caring for the poor; He was emphasizing the importance of offering acts of love and devotion to Him and others by Anointing. Today’s reading including these types of anointings:
- The Anointing of the Dead: As Mary approached, Jesus was thinking of his coming death. This was probably hard to do but YET Jesus only cared about the Love and Devotion to His people. He saw the anointing as a preparation for his burial, which he knew well was only a few days away. He was fully oriented toward what was coming. He was ready to die in order to save us.
- The Anointing of a Very Special Guest: This aromatic fragrance was a very expensive oil. Judas estimated it was worth three-hundred days’ wages—essentially a year’s wages. Wow! In Jesus’s time, guests who arrived at someone’s home would customarily have their feet washed and anointed to clean off the dust of the road. It makes me think if it would be possible for people could do this today. As we learn from the Last Supper, this was normally done by a slave, yet Mary did it herself, humbling herself before Jesus and even wiping his feet with her hair. As you know, Jesus did the very same thing during the Last Supper. Mary’s actions could be interpreted as an act of gratitude for the raising of her brother Lazarus, but perhaps she was also recognizing or already knew of Jesus’s divinity.
- The Anointing of a King: Kings are also anointed. Jesus was about to head into Jerusalem, perhaps the very next day, and he would be acclaimed king by the pilgrims entering Jerusalem. The signs of his kingship, of his Messianic identity, would be apparent riding a donkey (the royal animal), entering the city from the east, from the Mount of Olives, arriving in time for the Passover when kings traditionally began their reigns in Jerusalem. Interesting enough, scriptures reported no other moment in which Jesus was anointed after this.
Though we serve Christ in others who are in need, we must also seek to regularly offer Him devotion and love directly, even in ways that others may think is excessive. Honoring Him, expressing our love, spending time with various devotions, praying for extended periods of time, and even offering Him our financial resources are all ways in which we give Jesus
Closing Prayer: Lord, this anointing prepared you for your death, your enthronement as a king of a kingdom not of this world. You were fully prepared to walk the way of the Passion to its end. Help me to accompany you in these moments so important for my salvation.
Action of the Day: I will spend a little extra time thinking and praying about what happened to you this week, in order to walk the Way of the Cross with you in the coming days.