Reading: John 12:1-11, NRSVUE
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 reclining with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’s 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.
What would we do to honor a friend? Or to honor our Lord? We most likely don’t think of anointing someone’s feet with oil as honoring them by today’s standards, but in the time of Jesus, this was a great honor. People’s feet were dirty and dry from walking on hot dry ground and it was customary for guests feet to be washed by the servants of the home. But in this story, Mary herself sits at Jesus’ feet and anoints them with a precious perfume and wipes them with her hair. But why? Jesus had not only been a good friend to Mary, but in the passages just before this Jesus had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead. Mary was honoring Jesus in a way that was deeply personal and deeply meaningful to both her and Jesus. Jesus’ earthly life is short and whether Mary knew this or not, Jesus certainly did. He honored Mary in return by defending her against those who questioned her actions. So, I ask again, what would we do to honor a friend? Or to honor Jesus?
Gracious God, we thank you for the gift of the example of Mary and Jesus, who honor one another in their friendship. As we near the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Your Son this week, reveal to us ways that we too might honor one another and Christ our Lord.