The Threat of Life
Mary Anoints Jesus
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (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.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
The Plot to Kill Lazarus
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. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
I’m not big on perfume or cologne. I went through that middle school phase where we all wore too much cologne all the time, but ever since then, I’ve not cared for it much. It makes me wonder, why Jesus just sat there and let Mary put a whole pound of perfume on him. Apparently, so did everyone else. Judas went so far as to complain about it. I find it unusual that he complained about the money that could have been saved, but no one complained about the smell.
I believe I recall Dr. Ben Witherington teaching that this perfume may have had the special purpose of anointing the bodies of the dead during the funeral preparations. This might be the kind of thing the women were taking to Jesus’ body on Easter morning. Why then, did Mary have it at the point? Was she one of the few who honestly believed that Jesus was heading to His death, and if so, why was she putting it on Him so early? Dr. Witherington suggested that this may have originally been bought for her brother Lazarus who did indeed die, and whose body had begun to stink 4 days into his burial. Judas was right in that it probably cost Mary and Martha quite a bit of money to purchase, which makes me think it was something they had saved up while Lazarus was sick, or that they had saved and sold as a final act of love for him. The gospel accounts do not tell us for sure, but if we take it to mean that this perfume was meant for Lazarus, who was then raised from the dead, Lazarus did not need it anymore and by bringing him back from death, Jesus had, in a strange way, earned that burial perfume for Himself.
The second passage here speaks to the growing concern about Jesus gaining popularity with the people – particularly because of the resurrection of Lazarus. Many had seen him dead and witnessed that resurrection, so it could not be easily denied. Both of these two accounts deal with the threat that new life brought to the people around Jesus.
What do I mean by threat of new life? We all have a script for life that says something like: you are born, stuff happens, then you die.
The most important thing you can do is stretch out the “stuff happens” part as long as you can… preferably with good things. But what if that script is wrong? What if Jesus showed that for some people, their script read: you are born, stuff happens, then you die, then you come back… and life goes on forever after that?
If you knew that you would be raised into a body that would not get sick and hurt ever again, but you would have to have your heart stopped for a few days to get it, would you do it? I think many people would. I think there would be a long line of people who would trade away self-preservation for the chance at a life without pain. New life.
If this were offered, the medical industry would go out of business. Economies would crash. People would quit caring about things like they do now. Some of us might just become self-absorbed slobs who quit caring about work, food, anything… why rush? We only have forever. But I think there might be others who would make it there purpose to make sure every person would have the chance to experience this as well. World peace and an end to suffering all over. The very existence of these kind of people could topple governments and would be a threat to anyone in power. It would be a messy blessing.
Death is really less of a threat than life eternal because we know we all face death anyway. Death is not a punishment, it is a normal part of our script. Life, however, is much more uncertain… and uncertain can be scary.
How do you hope to experience the new life found in Jesus?
What part of that new life do you hope to experience today?
- (Mt 26:6–13; Mk 14:3–9) ↩