(Posted April 5, 2019)
Long before the others had an inkling of what was soon to come, Mary of Bethany’s womanly intuition told her that Jesus, that beloved Rabbi who had raised her brother from three days in the grave, would soon be killed. Jesus was precious to Mary and her sister Martha. And on this particular evening six days before the Passover dinner that we tend to remember so easily, the family had thrown a loving family dinner for Jesus and his disciples. Martha, of course, was in the kitchen preparing food. Lazarus, “the Miracle Man,” sat waiting for the supper to arrive. And Mary, oh so ever-perceptive Mary, was listening to her heart, and had brought a costly gift.
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She had to have known well before the dinner, because a woman doesn’t just go out and buy a jar of nard, a costly anointing oil worth a year’s salary, on a whim. Don’t even ask where the money came from. She realized that she wasn’t going to have Jesus amongst them for much longer. There wasn’t time to tell him how she loved him in her pure way, how grateful she was for restoring Lazarus.
And she ached in the depths of her soul.
So she removed her head covering, revealing the one crowning glory of her womanhood in the first century, her most precious personal possession, her long hair, and she knelt in front of Jesus. When she opened the jar the exotic, pungent scent tumbled from its mouth, just as her hair cascaded down onto the floor. Like a disciple knocking the dust of the day from his master’s feet, she wrapped the dusty feet of Jesus in her hair. And she applied the nard, lovingly, bathing his feet in her tears – tears shed for what she knew was to come.
The other disciples looked on, confused and yet fascinated. Except for one. Judas, the holder of the purse for the group of disciples, erupted with anger at Mary for wasting money on Jesus. He, of course, had a habit of dipping into the group’s money when no one was watching. But Jesus scolded Judas and reminded him, as he reminds us, that we will not always have him visible before us.
Mary and Judas: two disciples, one filled with sanctity, and the other filled with darkness. The Gospel writer John always identified Mary, Lazarus’ sister, as a servant of God. But two other Gospel authors portrayed her as the harlot, the sinner. Even with Judas standing in the room, the early Church fathers painted her with this dark brush as well. And yet in a room full of Jesus' followers, only Mary understood the fleeting opportunity we all have to love the people in our lives who are our Beloved of God.
As we round the weeks of Lent and point our journey to Calvary, who are those who you love, the “beloved” in your lives? Do not take for granted that you have all the time in the world to love them, to tell them while they are here how much they mean to you. While you can, before it’s too late, “anoint” them with the knowledge that you love them. Before it’s too late, before the most enduring tribute you can give them are plastic flowers on a grave, tell them. So that They Know. - Pastor Pat Kriss