Prepare to listen (about 5 minutes). Enter your quiet space and be still and silent as you calm down. Invite the Holy Spirit to come and speak. Pray: “Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.”
Read John 12:1-11 (read slowly 2 or 3 times as you wonder about the details in the text).
1Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary 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. 4But 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 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.) 7Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
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. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
Some background information
“Six days before the Passover”—begins the last week of Jesus’ life on earth.
Bethany was just outside Jerusalem. Jesus is preparing for the end.
“Pure nard.” Nard was an expensive oil-based perfume found only in India. One pound is a lot of perfume!
“Three hundred denarii” was a year’s worth of wages for a day laborer. Mary’s act was an extravagant and generous ‘waste’.
The main characters in the story are Jesus, Judas Iscariot (the only two who speak), Mary, Martha and Lazarus, a curious crowd and angry chief priests.
I once invited the congregation to imagine auditioning for a part in a movie of this story. I said I only needed two more characters—Mary and Judas; and I needed people who felt that their experience would best suit them for these roles because they could identify with either Mary or Judas in the story. I described the actions of each and left them with the challenge to decide which role best described them. After the service, a seasoned farmer shook my hands with his rough farm hands and said, ‘Sometimes I feel like Mary ready to be extravagantly wasteful in my love for Jesus and other days I’m more like Judas, complaining about wasting things instead of giving to the poor.’
Which character do you most identify with and why; Mary who ‘wasted’ expensive perfume in an extravagant gesture of love for Jesus, or Judas who complained about such waste?
Imagine what Jesus might say to you and what you would like to say to him.
Respond to Jesus in prayer. Write your own prayer response or pray the following prayer:
Lord Jesus, you set an example of extravagant, generous love, a love that cost your all. Forgive me for so often behaving more like Judas, complaining about wastefulness instead of being like Mary, giving my all in a generous gesture of gratitude for your sacrificial love. Lord, in your mercy, hear and answer my prayer to be more like you in all I do today. Amen.
Be silent and still (for as long as you want). Simply be in the presence of Jesus, who loves you, regardless.