Jesus said, 'Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.' (v. 7)

John 12:1-8 Monday 29 March 2021

Psalm 36


Today’s passage follows on from the account of the raising of Lazarus, which is the seventh and very prominent miraculous sign recorded in John’s Gospel and taken to indicate who Jesus was. That episode ended with the chief priests and religious leaders resolving to kill Jesus (John 11:53) and as a result for a time Jesus “no longer walked openly among the Jews” (John 11:54). However, as the Passover approaches the situation was about to change, but for a brief moment he shares a meal with friends, including Lazarus who is now clearly described as fit and well enough to share a meal with him.

This is though no ordinary meal, as it starts the countdown not only towards the Passover in six days time (v. 1) but also to Jesus’ burial (v. 7). As Mary uses this extremely costly perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet, it suggests that she is one of the first people to understand who Jesus is, what his mission is about and what was going to happen to him in the coming days. This is also before the disciples’ understanding becomes clearer, as evident from Judas’ criticism of Mary (vs 4-5).

Despite the potential for this to be a depressing scene, we can see, in the acts of Martha serving a meal and Mary’s act of wiping Jesus’ feet, examples of selfless discipleship, something Jesus himself was to encourage his disciples to do, following his own example of washing their feet (John 13: 3-15). And in addition, the use of the perfume meant “the house was filled with fragrance”, which was quite a contrast to the stench of death and decay in Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:39). The events of this week may lead to death and burial, but decay was not going to follow as there was a fragrant hope of something much better to come.

To Ponder:

  • Three hundred denarii would be nearly a year’s wages for a labourer, so was Judas so wrong to criticise this use of a pound of costly perfume?
  • Let us pray for those we may know who are receiving palliative care and for those who are caring for them and helping them to prepare for death.
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