Sermons

Summary: Choose your role model: Mary or Judas

Monday of Holy Week

If any words can sum up Jesus’s call to discipleship, they are the words, “leave everything, and come and follow me.” Whatever it is that keeps us from obeying Christ’s law of love must be abandoned radically so we can obey. Here, as we enter Christ’s final brief time of liberty before His arrest, we see Mary acting out the cost of discipleship.

The perfumed oil used her by Mary, and objected to by Judas, was both rare and costly. The nard was an oil from plants grown in the Himalayas, an expensive import, bought in sealed alabaster boxes opened only on special occasions. It was probably Mary’s life savings, worth about $30,000 in today’s money. Mary truly left everything to follow Jesus. On the surface, it was an incredible act of hospitality, an act of gratitude for Jesus’s raising Mary’s brother from death. Jesus identifies its prophetic role. Mary is preparing His body for its burial, and, implicitly acknowledging Him as the King who would reign from a rude wooden throne. You see, the Greek used here is identical to the words used in the Song of Songs to describe the Messianic king: “while the king was at his table, my perfume gave forth its fragrance.”

And there is more. The word “pure” here is derived from the Greek word “pistis,” which means faith. So this anointing of Jesus is with the oil of faith, too. Mary is professing her total devotion to the Master, her total allegiance to Him, by giving everything she had to honor Him, and doing so in faith.

In John’s Gospel, every character is a role model. Here we have two: Judas is angry, greedy and resentful. Ultimately, he is the traitor who will deliver Jesus into the hands of His enemies. Mary is grateful, loving and extravagant. In a few days we will hear how Jesus Himself imitated her actions by washing the feet of His disciples while they were at table. The question the Liturgy seems to leave us with today seems a little disturbing, when we read the depth of meaning in John’s words: whom will we imitate this Holy Week? Mary of Bethany? Or Judas of Kerioth?

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