Monday 30 March 2015

Bible Book:

]. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (vv. 2-3)

John 12:1-11 Monday 30 March 2015

Psalm: Psalm 36


The raising of Lazarus (John11) is an important marker on Jesus' journey to the cross inJohn's Gospel. It is after the report of his raising of Lazarusreached the ears of the authorities that it was decided that Jesushad to be stopped. In many ways, in raising Lazarus to life Jesuscondemned himself to death.

In this banquet in Jesus' honour afterhis raising of Lazarus, the three main characters are present.Martha served. Interestingly this was not dissimilar her role in Luke10:40, assuming that they are the same Mary and Martha.

Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus.Here we have one man brought back from the grave sitting withanother about to be anointed for his burial.

Mary anointed Jesus' feet with costlyperfume and wiped them with her hair. This story is very similar toone described in Mark 14:3-9 and another in Luke7:36-50. However, there are quite significant differences inthe stories as well so that it is not clear whether they are thesame story or different ones. Scholarly views differ.

This is a story of radical lack ofrestraint. A bottle of perfume worth a year's wages (imagine a£20,000 bottle of perfume) is poured out on Jesus' feet. Given thatJesus will go on to wash his disciples' feet in the followingchapter (John 13:1-20) in a similar setting of anevening meal, it is noteworthy that Jesus himself has his feetanointed with perfume and dried by a woman's hair.

The sheer extravagance of this act isshocking, even in our more permissible 21st-century culture. In themore constrained cultural mores of 1st-century Palestine this wasscandalously outrageous. Whatever else is going on Mary is cast inthe role of a beloved disciple. Whether she recognises beforeanyone else that Jesus is going to his death, or is simplyexpressing gratitude for the raising of Lazarus is not clear.

This was both a private and public act.It was private in the depth of its intimacy; in that moment Marywas alone with her Lord. It was also a public act. There wereothers at dinner, and even those who weren't in the room would havesmelt the perfume as its fragrance filled the house. Something ofMary's devotion infused that place.

To Ponder

  • To what extent have we become too restrained too proper in ourdevotion to Christ? When was the last time you felt moved toexpress, with a radical lack of restraint, your sense of gratitudeto God?
  • Mary offered a bottle of perfume worth a year's wages. How shewould have acquired such a thing has been the subject of scholarlydebate for centuries. What seems clear is that she is unlikely tohave had anything else of similar value. Mary offered the mostvaluable thing she had to God, not because God needed it butbecause she felt the need to give it. What might you give to God,not for God's benefit but yours?
  • Mary's extravagance offended some but filled the house with thefragrance of the perfume, which conjures up Old Testament images ofGod smelling the sweet aroma of burnt offerings (cf Genesis 8:21). In what ways might your devotionto Christ be a pleasing aroma, not only to those aroundus you but also to God?
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