21 March 2010

John 12:1-8

"You will always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." (v.8)


These events take place six days before the Passover, and usually at this time, people would be preparing for the festival. Jesus and the disciples were in Bethany at the home of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus, who Jesus had recently raised from the dead (John 11:1-44).

Mary took nard (a very expensive oil), poured it on Jesus' feet and then wiped his feet with her hair. This was a very unusual act. Not only because it took place around a dinner table, but because such perfume was usually poured on someone's head and wiped away with some sort of cloth. A woman's hair was not meant to be loose in public, let alone used to wipe expensive oil from a man's feet.

Mary's simple act can be seen as erotic, intense and pleasurable, but it also showed humanity and a great deal of respect for Jesus. Her actions are used by the Gospel-writer John to highlight her empathy for Christ's death - as such perfume would normally be used for festivals and quite often for burials.

But this act did not go unnoticed and in particular upset Judas Iscariot, the disciple who later went on to betray Jesus (John 18:1-5). John adds a note that Judas' concern for the poor doesn't illustrate his compassion - it shows his dishonesty. Here is a man who masquerades as a money bag keeper, but is accurately a thief and would rather have the money for himself (verse 6).

But Jesus immediately comes to the defense of Mary by saying, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial".

To Ponder

How do we prepare a loved one for death today?

What is the best way to say goodbye?

What do you think was Mary's intention in this act?

Bible notes author

Sanya Strachan

Sanya Strachan is an administrator for the Connexional Team, a youth worker and a local preacher. She was born into the Methodist Church and her church family continue to inspire her as a local preacher, guide her as a young person, pray for her as a West Ham Utd Fan and support her as a Tim Hughes groupie.