Sermon Synopsis John 12:1-11

Imagine the dynamic at the table…

Not long before, Jesus had left Jerusalem with the leaders of the church threatening to kill him. A message had arrived that his friend, Lazarus was very ill and it urged him to go back to Bethany to heal him before it was too late. His disciples were torn, some pointing out the danger and some Lazarus’ great need. Jesus told them, “Our friend, Lazarus is sleeping.” His disciples had responded, “That is good. That means the fever has left him.” Then Jesus corrected them, “Lazarus has died.” And the disciples are stunned that Jesus then announces that he is going to Bethany… and back into danger. Thomas (who later doubts the reports of the resurrection) courageously describes the political environment that they are returning to, “Let us go with him that we might die together.” The miracle which follows brings Lazarus back to life. The crowds are amazed. The religious leaders are enraged… and have vowed to put both Jesus and Lazarus to death. This is the dynamic at the table…

It was in the middle of all this that Mary stunned everyone in the room. She had already shown that she was willing to break with tradition and had sat with the men listening to Jesus teach. Her sister, Martha had complained to Jesus and told him to send her back into the kitchen. Jesus told Martha that Mary’s act of social rebellion was, “…a better way.” Now at yet another dinner Mary left the table, went into her room and brought back a treasure.

Imagine everyone’s shock as she carried in a vessel filled with a perfume that today would be worth thousands of dollars; a year’s wages for a laborer. They watched in awe as she kneeled as his feet and broke the seal on the bottle. They must have gasped as she emptied it out onto his feet. The room was instantly filled with the scent…

It doesn’t stop there…

In the face of every social and religious taboo Mary uncovers and unbinds her long hair and uses it to wipe the ointment off Jesus’ feet. Now there is anger in the room. Some, no doubt are barely concealing their judging discomfort for this sensual act. Others are pointing out the economic waste of her extravagant sacrifice. Judas gives voice to the feelings in the room (and the gospel writer reveals Judas’ personal agenda of greed).  And then Jesus silences those judging her by telling them that Mary understands what they do not yet see. His death is imminent… and she has prepared his body for the grave.

How often is it that the outsider, the social rebel sees what our eyes do not? Probably most of the time…

We put blinders on ourselves that are made up of prejudices, fears and assumptions. When we see others who have removed those blinders we too often react by condemning them and doubting their vision.

One final thought… I wonder if in the short span of days which followed this dinner if Mary was reminded of her love for Jesus by the scent in her hair? I wonder as she stood at the foot of the cross if Jesus could smell her perfume?