Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the money bag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
Complete Gratitude for Grace
The effects of Lazarus’ resurrection come into play. Mary demonstrates a heart of gratitude that Jesus is with them and that her brother is healed. The chief priests develop a spirit of anger and animosity and they want Lazarus dead again. They are merchants of death who are dead within and bring death without. They want Lazarus dead and they will kill Jesus to maintain the sepulcher within.
Mary’s gratitude is lavish. She abases herself in front of everyone and she is lavish with her use of perfume. There is something sensual and inappropriate in the minds of many readers as they observe her behavior in the pages of the Bible. It is only because Jesus is our revealed savior that we allow her actions as righteous 2000 years later.
Are we grateful to Jesus to the extent that we would take a year’s salary and spend it on him? Not that we would give him something enduring like a house or even a car. What if we bought him expensive cut flowers, took him out for a meal, or paid for him to go to a Cubs game? Mary’s gift is more significant because it has to do with burial, but the gift is equally perishable. This is why some onlookers gasped at the extravagance. Mary lost herself in the presence of Jesus. She gave with abandon.
My self gets in the way of my sacrifice. My desires cause me to hold something back. However, what holds me back from giving the most is my lack of gratitude. Most of the time I have no thought for the hopeless condition I am in without Jesus. In this Halloween season, where horror is a commodity, maybe we can remember the horror once more of our condition without Jesus. We never see the extent of the sin in other people’s lives. We only see the extent of it in ours. We have the complete picture of our depravity available to us, but we are blind. We catch a glimpse of others and the sin they present and we thank God that we are not like them. However, if you saw your sin as God saw it you would be crushed. You would want to hide. You would be consumed with shame. It is in the death of our sin that Jesus offers new life. It is in the darkest night that Jesus brings the light. If we get a glimpse of the amazing nature of God’s grace we will sing songs, smash perfume bottles, cry for joy and relief.
Some of us have looked into the darkness of our souls and seen the yawning chasm of darkness that dwells there apart from you. You have illuminated a near infinite void and filled it with your light. Help us to both see how hopeless we are without you and the great hope that is ours. Help us to admit our sin and claim your grace.
- What does Mary do?
- How do people respond?
- Do the synoptic gospels tell the same story?
- What does it look like today when someone gives their most prized possessions to God?
- What does your gratitude compel you to do?