SCRIPTURE READING John 12:1-8
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 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. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
MESSAGE “Mary and Judas” James R. Renfrew, Teaching Elder
My brother died. Lazarus. He was very sick. My sister Martha and I sent word to Jesus, but Jesus didn’t come. Then Lazarus died. I’ve never known a sadder day. We anointed his body and then wrapped him in burial bandages. He was placed in our family tomb. A large stone was placed in front of it. It was the saddest day of my life. We felt so helpless, so weak, so filled with grief. Our brother. Dead.
When Jesus finally arrived at Bethany, it was too late. Lazarus had been dead several days. But Jesus asked to see Lazarus’ tomb. So we took him there. Strangely, Jesus asked for the stone to be moved aside. Martha was shocked, and in one of the most terrible testimonies ever heard she warned Jesus that after three days Lazarus’s corpse would give off a terrible smell. But Jesus leaned into the tomb and shouted “Lazarus!”. What a strange thing to do; I’ve never seen anything like it! Maybe that’s one of those strange customs from Nazareth. Everyone knows that people from Galilee are very odd. But shouting into a tomb is simply not done around here.
Jesus shouted again, “Lazarus! Lazarus, come out!” We really thought that Jesus had lost his mind. But then we heard a rustling, then we saw movement in the shadows, and then Lazarus, our brother, walked out of the tomb. He looked more dead than alive, because he was still wrapped in those bandages. And Martha was right about the stench. But it was our brother, Alive! It was wonderful, it was shocking, at the same time. You better believe that the whole village was talking about it. Even Lazrus, our brother, was astounded and mystified. He didn’t understand it either.
Here we are, back in Bethany. I was with Jesus when he last visited here. It was incredible. I still can’t explain it. That dead man Lazarus walked out of his tomb when Jesus called him. He was dead, let me tell you! And he walked out of that tomb.
When we came back into town, people surrounded Jesus. They told him their sad stories, they showed him their scrapes and bruises, they pointed to their injuries. They did everything they could to get his attention. Those poor villagers even offered him food. They didn’t even have enough food to feed their own families. Some of them tossed coins in his direction. But Jesus just kept walking. It was my job to bend down and pick up those coins and to put them in our money box. Sometimes I don’t think any of the others get it, maybe not even Jesus, but we need that money to buy the food we require each day. So in case you didn’t know, I’m Judas, and I’m the one who holds the money for us.
Then a few days later Jesus came back to our village of Bethany. I had so many questions, how did he do it, why did he do it? but I was scared to ask. I felt like if I said even a single word to him the magic spell would be broken, and our brother Lazarus would be back in the tomb, as dead as before.
But I had to do something. I had to show something to Jesus to express our thanks. Then I remembered that we still had perfume left over from my brother’s burial. It was expensive to buy, the most expensive thing we’ve ever set our eyes on. I could have sald what remained for a large sum of money, many silver coins. Instead, I realized that this perfume, nard from far-off India, I would give it to Jesus. Without my saying a word, Jesus would know what I was trying to say.
So when Jesus sat down, I went right up to him. I couldn’t even look at him, but I took that perfume and washed his feet with it. Such a great gift he had given to our family, and this was the only way that I could think to show how much it meant to us. I washed his feet with perfume using my hair. My hair is always kept covered for sake of modesty, but today I felt like I had nothing to hide, and I was happy for the whole world to see how much I love Jesus for what he did to save my brother.
Look at this! This is absurd, it’s offensive, it’s an embarrassment. No woman should get close to a respected rabbi like Jesus, and certainly not touch him. But look at what she is doing! This is a scandal. She’s using her hair to wash his feet in perfume. Has she no shame? She has no modesty at all. Doesn’t she know what this will do to Jesus’ reputation? He will be destroyed because of this.
And what a waste! All of this perfume could have been sold for hundreds of silver coins. Think of all the people we could have fed with that money! I don’t have to tell you that even we disciples have to go hungry sometimes. The others are always telling me, “The Lord will provide”, but you can’t fool me, sometimes we have nothing to eat.
I know that the other disciples believe I only think about money, that I’m only thinking about myself, but without me they’d go hungry. Half the towns we visit people offer us food to eat, but the other half thrown rocks and chase us away. You can’t eat rocks, can you? Jesus knows what they say about me, but he never criticizes or complains. Sometimes I think he’s looking right at me. I wonder what he’s thinking?
So of course some people are complaining. Some people always find something to complain about. They complain about darkness, then they complain about sunlight. They complain how valuable this perfume is, but if I gave him just a cup of water and a biscuit they’d say I was stingy. Don’t you think I know how valuable this perfume is? Of course I do! Our family paid for it. So I can use it however I want. I can give to anyone I want. Let them criticize. They haven’t been in my shoes. They don’t understand what has happened to us when Jesus called on Lazarus to walk out of the tomb. Some of us will never forget it.
What a waste of money.
I’ve given the most beautiful gift I could ever give.
We could have fed hundred of people for many months.
I hope Jesus understands what I’ve done.
This woman is ruining everything.
I love everything about him, and I’m glad I didn’t miss this moment to show him. Maybe this is my only chance. Let the fragrance of this perfume multiply love, his love for me, and my love for him, and your love for the whole world.