Fifth Sunday In Lent
Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.
But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.
Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial.You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
John 12:1-8 New Living Translation (NLT)
We are progressing toward Holy Week. Today’s encounter happens six days before the Passover. It happens just after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and just before His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Jesus is at the home of Lazarus and his disciples are with him as well as Mary and Martha. Mary takes a jar of expensive perfume and anoints Jesus which immediately raises the ire of Judas – who really couldn’t care that the money wasn’t being spent on the poor. John editorializes and tells us that Judas is a thief – he was in charge of the disciples money – and he often took their money for himself. I find it interesting – often the one who squawks the loudest is usually the most guilty.
Jesus hears Judas’ complaint – interestingly enough – he doesn’t comment about Judas misuse of funds but goes directly to the complaint – that the perfume is too expensive and it should have been spent on the poor.
Jesus tells his disciples that Mary has anointed him in preparation for his death. This is before he predicts his death at the Last Supper. Mary knows that soon Jesus will be gone. It’s really a matter of priorities Jesus tells us. Mary – again – has chosen the most important thing. You may remember that it was Mary whom Jesus commended for sitting at his feet and listening to his teaching. Martha was reprimanded for being too busy. Mary does the right thing – prepares Jesus for his death. This does not mean that Mary and Martha and Lazarus didn’t care for the poor – we aren’t told, but we know that Jesus had great compassion on the poor and this should not be a reflection otherwise. I believe Jesus knew what lie ahead – the Pharisees – the crowd going into Jerusalem.
Perhaps Mary really understood who Jesus was and in a way she was indicating he really was the Messiah – the Anointed One – the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. John leaves us in suspense. But today we remember the sacrifice of Mary – to anoint Jesus.