Sunday 07 April 2019

Bible Book:

There they gave a dinner for him. 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. (vs. 2-3)

John 12:1-8 Sunday 7 April 2019

Psalm: Psalm 126


As the church enters Passion Week, these daily readings and notes take the theme "The Cost of Redemption", a helpful and challenging line of thinking to apply to all the passages, hymns and prayers we will read, sing and offer in these days.

Cost is at the heart of this story which takes place in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. John’s Gospel gives us two important stories about this household; today’s passage and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44). Luke also narrates a story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) but Lazarus is not mentioned there. From John we learn that the home is in Bethany, about two miles from Jerusalem, and, as in Luke’s story, it is shown as a place where Jesus could relax and be refreshed among friends.

Perhaps on this occasion there are more people there than are named, for it is a ‘dinner for him’, a meal held in Jesus’ honour. Perhaps the whole evening was a thank you to Jesus for restoring Lazarus to them (John seems to make that link in v. 1).  No cost would seem extravagant when set aside the life of a beloved brother.  As in Luke, we find Martha serving in a practical role while Mary offers service through her devotion and intimate attention to Jesus.

John comments on the high cost of this vast quantity of "pure nard"; 300 denarii was a lot of money, possibly almost a year’s salary for a labourer. It is the high cost of this anointing oil that incites the anger of Judas. His stated motive is concern for the poor, but John wants us to question that; telling us that Judas was both the treasurer for the disciples, but also a thief. The growing tension between these two disciples is another interesting study.  

The anointing has significance, prefiguring the anointing of Jesus’ body after death by Nicodemus (John 19:39), a link which Jesus himself makes in his rebuke of Judas, quoting Deuteronomy 15:11 as he reminds Judas that Mary’s actions in no way prevent Judas from showing generosity to those who are poor.


To Ponder:

  • Who pays the cost of redemption? In the light of this story, how might we reflect on our own generosity or meanness, our own priorities and offering of love?
  • Mary’s generosity filled the house with a sweet perfume. What fragrance do our actions leave behind them?
  • These two women have different ways of showing their love for Jesus. How will you show your love for Jesus today?
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