John: Jesus Anointed at Bethany

Read John 12:1-11

Chapter 12 begins with two references: this is the week before Passover and a reminder that Lazarus is the one Jesus raised from the dead. Just in case you missed it or forgot somehow. With that quick intro, John tells his first story about Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters.

Martha is always busy. She’s a good person, but one who is constantly on the move from one task to another. From a d DISC perspective, I’d call her an unprotected “C” — very task oriented, comfortable with checklists. From her perspective, Mary’s actions are not the least bit helpful, if not downright distracting.

Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:2-3

What Did Mary Do?

If you ask Judas Iscariot, you know, the one who will finish his betrayal of Jesus in less than a week, Mary wasted precious material that could have funded several ministries.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.” John 12:7

But if you ask Jesus, her timing couldn’t have been better. Her actions provided the perfect backdrop for the lessons He needed to leave with His disciples in the next few days.

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” John 12:7-8

Do me a favor, please don’t quote John 12:8 out of context. Thanks. Seriously, this verse does not stand on its own. “You will always have the poor among you” is not a license to ignore the poor among us. I’m completely convinced that Jesus was not dispensing with the poor at this point, nor was He at any other time in His earthly ministry. Yet I get a sense of this sentiment when talking to seasoned Christians about serving others in our community. Ridiculous you say? I wish there were the case, but many don’t serve those on “the other side of town” because they are just those people that we’ll always have around. No need to try and help them. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but I’m sure you are getting my sarcasm and somewhat righteous attitude. Ok, I’ll get off of my favorite soapbox and move on with the story.

The crowd that gathers is treated to the aroma of precious perfume as they see a sight they could hardly believe: Lazarus was hanging out with Jesus having dinner. Many no doubt heard the story of his demise, then miraculous second chance on life. Now they get to see the evidence. Lazarus is indeed alive, but how can this be? Almost as a precursor to Jesus’ interaction with Thomas, I like to imagine Jesus inviting people in to meet Lazarus, to shake his hand, to touch his warm and quite alive body. Not a ghost. Nothing imaginary. He’s the real thing.

So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him. John 12:10-11

Apparently, some had the great idea of killing Lazarus as a means to remedy this problem (in their minds). There are lots of problems with this idea, but mostly this: people have already seen Lazarus. The miracle that was proclaimed was witnessed by many and they would not forget. Nor would they forget who facilitated the miracle. Many believed as a result.

The plot continues to thicken as we read John’s story of Holy Week. May the Spirit speak to each of those who read these words (John’s, not mine). I pray that many will ask hard questions of those of us who have stepped across the line of doubt and into the light of faith, questions that are holding them back from Jesus. May we be the light that points to the true light.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

My prayer is for you to join me on this journey. Subscribe to this blog below to get an email when a new post is available.

Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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