We Interrupt This Programming...
We are taking a brief pause from 1 Corinthians to walk the last few days of Jesus life before we hung Him on a cross. We start in Bethany 6 days before the Passover.
John 12:1 Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. 3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, *said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” 6 Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. 7 Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”
Three times before this Jesus had explained in plain language that He was going to die. The final time was on the way to Bethany. Matthew tells us in his account that Jesus actually physically stopped them on the side of the road and said He was going to Jerusalem to be killed.
I have often thought it would be easier to follow Jesus if He just told me exactly what to do. As it turns out the problem is not so much His lack of clarity as my inability to hear. In both the Old and New Testaments we are described as seeing but not seeing and hearing but not hearing. Such was the case with the disciples. In spite of the fact Jesus told them plainly three different times that He was going to die they did not believe it.
What we often forget though is that it wasn't just Jesus and the twelve. Others traveled with them among whom were several women. Of those women there was always Mary. In some places she is referred to as Mary the sister of Lazarus and Martha. In other places it is Mary of Magdala or Mary Magdalene. It is the same person. When you line up all the clues this becomes obvious. At some point Mary had been a prostitute. She was so broken by her past life that the Scriptures say seven demons were cast out of her.
Nevertheless Mary was unique. Of her Jesus said "the one who is forgiven much loves much." He also told Martha who was complaining that Mary wasn't helping in the kitchen but rather listening to Jesus teach "Mary has chosen that better part and it will not be taken from her."
The perfume Mary used represented a years salary. We aren't told specifically where she got the money but given the structure of society and the gross subjection of women it was likely money she had saved from her previous life. Either way it was extremely expensive. However it isn't Mary's past or the value of the perfume that makes this event remarkable. In Matthew's telling of it Jesus also said that what Mary did would be remembered and retold through the ages.
Because Mary knew He was going to die. She didn't just hear, she listened. She was there on the road when He stopped them and explained His date for the last time. She truly listened. Her love for Jesus was stronger than her own opinions, stronger than the traditional things she was taught about the Messiah. While the rest argued and resisted what He was saying, she was hearing and planning.
She was the first to understand He would die and the first to announce His resurrection. Pride resists but love listens. What a comfort it must have been for Jesus to know that while Judas was betraying and the other eleven were resisting one person got it. She was the evidence that more would understand in time. She was what the Bible calls the firstfruits.
What a tender amazing moment. Two hearts linked while everyone else had no idea what she was doing or why.
Tomorrow we'll continue the journey to the cross.