John 12: 1-8
Introverts don’t necessarily like this passage much.
Nor do those of us who prefer to play our emotional cards a little close to our chest
And if there is any British stock in us, or if we are Aussie males
then this passage is best left “out there” or even preferably “back there” –
But let’s wander in and see where we get.
Because this passage is not about the anointing of Jesus’ head
at Simon’s house by a woman of dubious moral standing.
This is in Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus’s house;
this woman is a close friend
And that makes it worse!
If we wander into this story in John, where do we get the first hint of love?
It’s a trick question, actually. Because the first hint at love is before this passage
The context of this story
is that it is hot on the heels of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead
And in the story of Lazarus’s raising,
the love between Jesus and this family is spelled out clearly.
The actions of Mary are in the context of a strong relationship.
It is not a one-sided action of a besotted woman
to a Messiah who happens to pass by the house.
But in some ways that sort of makes the story stranger, doesn’t it.
Jesus knows that Mary loves him.
And – let’s point it out – this is in front of friends. This is weird, isn’t it?
And in the face of the weird, let the protests begin!
For all the flack that Judas cops in this story
(and it’s there in John’s sidenote in the text)
he really does speak for many many others.
This is uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable
And I will find a good reason to object: I know – “THE POOR”
But if we can back up beyond our uncomfortableness at this act –
or maybe at the thought of this act happening at a dinner party we might go to –
is there anything to notice and to learn?
Do we notice that the devotion and the love appears to be two sided and not just obsessive?
- Do we notice that it involves extravagant generosity:
by one person in the cost of the ointment;
by the other in the caring for a brother in a way that is going to get himself killed;
- Do we notice that it is about specific time being set aside to enjoy the moment;
- Do we notice that it is about physical touch as one carrier of love
- Do we notice that it is about a person being defended and affirmed when under attack
- And do we notice that there is an act of service that is being the immediate moment as well?
Where do you reckon that Mary got the ointment from?
Do you notice what sort of ointment it is, or what it is used for?
Remember this is hot on the heels of Lazarus dying and being raised from the dead.
And ointment – is used to anoint the dead body.
In other tellings of similar stories in gospels, Jesus is anointed on his head.
Kings get anointed on their heads.
But this one is the anointing of his feet.
Whose feet get anointed?? Dead men.
There is something about deep love that always points beyond itself,
and even beyond the “now”
And there is something about deep love that invites others to follow.
When Jesus gets one step closer to his death in this gospel – just 6 days later –
he does something for his friends before they eat their last meal.
Remember what it is?
He washes their feet. Strangely reminiscent of this story
Deep love always makes its mark.