A Reading for the Monday of Holy Week
John 12:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Mary Anoints Jesus
12 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[a] 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[b] 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[c] 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.”
The Plot to Kill Lazarus
9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
I think we see Jesus at his most human at this house in Bethany. Here he is amongst friends, reminding us that in times of trouble, there is nothing more valuable than friendship.
And even here, even at this time of turmoil and danger, Jesus is teaching us about the openness of his Kingdom. Because not for the first time, he allows Mary to sit at his feet – a position which would have been seen as incredibly inappropriate at the time. The tradition of his people was that Rabbis would choose only particularly intelligent and worthy disciples to sit at their feet and listen to their teachings…well Jesus had already broken that rule in choosing fishermen as his followers – but a woman? That would have been particularly shocking.
He defends Mary too for wasting all that expensive perfume on him. Judas must have thought that Jesus was bound to agree with him that it ought to have been spent on the poor, but Jesus recognised an act of love and gratitude when he saw one, and he would not condemn her.
Martha is busy making things straight and providing for everyone again, but this time we hear no complaints from her. Perhaps she is grateful to have him while she can, wants to serve while she may.
And we can only imagine how Lazarus might have felt at that surreal meal. We picture in our mind’s eye the two men reclining at dinner: one of them brought back from the dead, the other talking about his imminent death. Perhaps Lazarus was aware that his life too was in danger from those who were plotting against Jesus.
Certainly, I am sure that for Jesus to have a safe space with those who were some of his dearest friends, an oasis in the midst of the troubles that surrounded him, must have meant a great deal.
So today, we give thanks for friends – for all who are caring for us and walking with us in this difficult time.
We ask God to help us to be good friends to others, despite the present limitations.
We ask him to help us to reach out in friendship to those beyond out normal circle of friends – to check on our neighbour who we don’t know very well, to help to feed the hungry, to do our bit to ease the burdens of others.
And we ask Him to remind us that he is our ever present friend, and that he will walk with us all the days of our life.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Often Holy Week passes us by – we are so busy with our own concerns.
But this year many of us have time and space to sit at your feet like Mary.
Help us to learn about you and Mary did.
Help us to serve you as Martha did.
Help us to celebrate the life you give us as Lazarus did.
And give us the courage to walk into the unknown, with you as our constant friend and teacher.