Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The poor and a feet wiping

"A rich perfume on Jesus’ weary feet"*

John 12:1-8 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. 7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus seemed to get herself in trouble at family get-togethers. On one occasion it was criticism from her sister Martha for sitting at Jesus' feet rather than helping serve. On this occasion it was from Judas Iscariot for wasting what might have helped the poor. On both occasions Jesus defended her. On these occasions and in John chapter 11, we see Mary loved her place at the feet of Jesus.

Before the Passover  Lazarus, Martha, Mary, Jesus and the disciples got together at the house of Simon the leper (Cf. Mark 14:1-9) for a supper with Jesus as the guest of honor. While Martha served and Lazarus supped, Mary brought out an alabaster box with a pound of costly ointment and anointed Jesus. She anointed his feet, and from Matthew & Mark we know she also anointed His head. The ever-vigilant always-pragmatic and not-so-honest Judas took time to notice and to criticize. His criticism was a facade, and yet Jesus took notice of its failure to meet the test.

The feet wiping
Jesus as the guest of honor had great honor bestowed upon Him by Mary. The ointment was costly -- Judas estimated 300 pence -- but she spared none. She poured it all on Jesus. She also did not spare herself, but made her own lovely hair the rag with which to wipe Jesus' feet. Perhaps she did not even fully understand the import of the act as Jesus expresses it -- she presupposed His death and burial and anointed Him in preview. Even the most hard-hearted would not deny the cost of anointing for burial.

The poor
Judas proposed the poor as the reason to avoid such waste, while surely salivating to secure that sum for his scrip. Jesus answer does not discourage helping the poor, but encourages us to get our priorities in the right place. Within a few days He would be dead. The poor would be around always, and "whensoever ye will ye may do them good." If we are not doing the poor good when we can, do not use them as an excuse not to do what we should.

Jesus said Mary had "done what she could." May we, by God's grace, do what we should to bestow a sweet smelling offering upon Jesus our Savior who died for us.

When Mary poured a rich perfume on Jesus’ weary feet,
Her caring filled that humble room; the fragrance there was sweet.

*from the hymn "When Mary poured a rich perfume" by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette © 2001

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