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John 12:1-8, Mary Anoints Jesus

Tuesday, March 6

A Time and a Place

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

Didn't Jesus care about the poor? Did it really take the words of Judas, the betrayer, to point out the disparity between the needs of the poor and Jesus' needs? Well, maybe it's not that simple.

Jesus' time on earth was nearly done, but his work was not finished. He still had one last truly important thing left to do -- save the word from sin and death by his own death and resurrection. Healings, miracles, teachings, and acts of service had been started and would continue after his death. But this was Jesus' moment. This was his opportunity to tell the world who he was and what he was here to do. Mary's anointing symbolized not only Jesus' reign as a royal, but also his impending death and burial. (Kings were anointed to indicate their ascent to royal leadership; dead bodies were also anointed to preserve the bodies and mask the scent of death.) This act of anointing came to mean so much more than even Mary could have known. This moment set Jesus up as the king who had to die to save his people.

So, what about the poor? Jesus' words were not callous or dismissive. He pointed out a difficult truth -- that the work of serving the poor would continue as long as there were humans on the earth. His moment did not diminish their need, it punctuated it.

A few years back, when attending a synod assembly (a gathering of local church leaders), I was overwhelmed by the needs laid before us. We were asked to donate to charities that provided mosquito nets to countries plagued with malaria and other bug-carried illnesses. We prayed for the polar bears and the melting polar icecaps. We were urged to send youth on mission trips to rebuild cities destroyed by floods. It was all too much -- the need was so great in so many arenas, and since I couldn't solve all of them, I lost confidence that I could solve any of them. 

After much reflection, I decided we, as individuals, are not called to solve all of the world's crises. We are called to contribute to the solving of the crisis or crises for which we have a passion. God has created us all with unique gifts, talents, and passions. What I pour my heart into will be vastly different from what my neighbor pours her heart into. But if we both jump in with both feet to our unique passions, we will affect change.

Jesus did care for the poor. He spent a lot of time turning the social structure on its head so that the poor would be served. But today, six days before the Passover that would begin the events of his Passion, this moment belongs to Jesus.

Narrative Lectionary Text: John 12:1-8

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.’