Summary: Mary gave up a lot to show her love for Jesus. It can be costly to be a disciple. To come before God the Father without fear, with our sins removed wiped clean to live forever in his presence far outweighs anything we might give up out of our love for him
We were discussing in our staff meeting this week the question of how you decide what to leave in your will, and to whom, when you die. As I was thinking about that I wondered how many of us have ever sat down and thought about what our priorities are in life; and when we come to write a will, to what extent do our stated priorities shape the content of our will. Have you ever done that? Have you ever stopped to think about what really matters to you and whether that’s reflected in your will? Or in the way you live your present life for that matter. Let me suggest some of the things that people make their priorities. There’s my wife and I. There’s our children and grandchildren. For some there’s their parents. There’s work or study. For some there’s a career path. There’s our leisure time. There’s our home; our retirement fund; our holiday fund; etc. You may want to add some other things in there. Of course I haven’t mentioned God or his Church have I? But that’s where today’s passage comes in. Today we see various groups of people with vastly different attitudes to Jesus and vastly different priorities.
Remember that Jesus has just preformed the greatest of his signs so far: the raising of Lazarus; and Martha has confessed: “Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” Now some time later, Jesus is again in Bethany enjoying a dinner put on for him, possibly by the townspeople assisted by Martha and Mary. Mark tells us it’s held at the home of Simon the leper, if Mark’s account is of the same incident, which seems likely.
Martha is doing her thing, serving the meal when Mary again comes and kneels at Jesus feet, not to listen to him, not to mourn the death of Lazarus, but to anoint him. If Jesus is the king, Mary wants to anoint him. And she does it with very expensive perfume. Nard is an extract of a plant grown at high altitudes in India, hence its great cost. Mark tells us that she pours it on his head; John mentions his feet. It may be that she pours it on both but John wants us to see that this is an act of self-humbling devotion on the part of Mary, kneeling before her king. I think he also wants us to connect this anointing with the triumphal entry to Jerusalem described a few verses later.
But before we look at that we need to notice a couple of contrasts that come out very clearly.
First there’s the contrast between Mary and Judas. As I said at the beginning, priorities matter. What I didn’t say was that what we do with our money often reflects what our true priorities are. Remember Jesus saying: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also? Well it works the other way around as well. Where your heart is that’s where you’ll invest your treasure.
It’s quite clear where Mary’s heart is isn’t it? A $60,000 jar of pure nard is nothing compared to the privilege of anointing the King of Israel. By contrast, Judas is more worried about what might be done with the money that this jar would bring in the market place – particularly if he could get his hands on it. It’s interesting isn’t it, that though he claims to be a disciple, a friend of Jesus, Judas doesn’t have kingdom priorities. He’s seems to be in it for what he can get out of it.
We need to examine our motives, our behaviour to see whether what we say are our priorities, really are when it comes to the crunch, when the rubber hits the road.
The second contrast to note is between Mary and the Chief Priests. As we saw last week, instead of seeing the miracle of Lazarus being raised as a sign that Jesus was who he said he was, they see it as the final straw. They’ve already decided Jesus needs to die and now they decide they need to get rid of Lazarus as well – hide the evidence as it were. For the past few chapters Jesus has been pointing out to them that the things he does could only be done if God was with him. The works he does point clearly to him being the Son of God as he claims to be. But they’ve closed their minds to the possibility, hardened their hearts to not believe in him. There are still people today who have that attitude aren’t there? You may have come across some of them. People who refuse to accept the possibility of anything beyond this material world; people who’ve closed their minds to God. It’s a sad way to be isn’t it?