Have you heard about my brother? I’m sure you have, everybody is talking about it. He’s called Lazarus. Yes, that’s the one. The man who was dead but came back to life. Our friend Jesus went to the tomb and called to him to come out. And he did. Just like that. It took a few days for the enormity of what had happened to actually sink in. But now we have realised that just saying thank you really wasn’t enough. Nothing is enough really. How do you thank someone for bringing back your brother.
We’ve decided to have a special meal in his honour. A small token of our appreciation. We’ve invited all of his disciples and lots of people from the village, well the ones who support Jesus anyway. Although since he brought back Lazarus that number is growing by the day.
Martha is going to cook. She’s much better at that than me. Hopefully she won’t complain about it this time, as she is doing it to say thank you. To say just how much she appreciates and loves Jesus. Jesus was a bit short with her last time when she complained about me sitting and doing nothing whilst she had to do everything. I guess I probably ought to give her a little help though, it’s only fair with quite so many people coming. I do have a plan though, for what I can do to say thank you. It’s a bit scary. But I think it will be the right thing to do. I hope the others see it that way too.
Well everybody is sat their enjoying the food. Martha has come up trumps again. Lazarus and Jesus are reclining at the table sharing their tales of what happened last week. The disciples are laughing and joking. Well, all except Judas. He looks a little morose. He hasn’t been his normal self recently. I’ve caught glimpses of conversation from the other disciples that they think he’s been pilfering the odd coins from their money. It’s almost like he isn’t happy that Lazarus has come back to life. That he thinks that Jesus has better things to do with his time than being generous with his friends. But maybe he is just worried about Jesus. I know that I am. They say that he is continuing with his plans to go to Jerusalem, maybe to overthrow the Romans. Even I know how risky that will be. And if that isn’t bad enough, the high priests and the Pharisees haven’t been happy since they heard about Lazarus. They seem to think that he isn’t doing God’s will. That he is claiming to be God. But I’m sure that God must be with him. How else did Lazarus come back to life? That can’t be from the devil, can it. But who knows what they might do to him.
I think it is time to pour out my thanks and adoration to Jesus. I have a pot of nard that I’ve been saving for a special day. Maybe my wedding day as a gift for my husband. I open it every now and then to have a little sniff. It’s a beautiful deep red colour and it smells divine. Like gladioli flowers. I was going to anoint his head, like in the psalm, but I’m not brave enough to do that. I’m not worthy to anoint his head. But I can look after his feet. I don’t mind that he has walked a long way to be here and they will be a bit dirty or smelly. I break open the bottle and the delicious aroma fills the surrounding air. As I pour the perfume onto his feet, as he lays at the table talking, it is as if there is no one else there, but him and me. The man who has brought me so close to God that I sometimes think I can feel his very presence there with me. The man who has taught me so much. The man who has brought my brother back from the dead. And without thinking I loosen my hair from its fastening and let it hang down in front of me. I can’t just use a rag to dry up the perfume, I have to use the best that I have, and that’s my hair. It’s gentle and soft.
A sharp voice brings me out of my reverie. I’m suddenly aware again of just how many people are present. I have my hair down in front of others. How humiliating. The shame I have brought on Lazarus. Tears fill my eyes as I hear the voice of Judas cutting through my heart. “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” I look down at the pot. It’s empty. My whole inheritance and dowry gone. What have I done? What was I thinking? No man should be worth that much to me, however holy they might appear. I shrink back. The whole room is staring at me. The rich smell of the nard that is filling the whole room suddenly seems sickeningly sweet. Not beautiful. As out of place in that room as I am. I should have stayed with Martha in the kitchen. I keep my head bowed so no one can see me as I prepare to flee.
When suddenly I am aware of a gentle touch on my shoulder and a soft voice comforting me. Mary. Mary.
He turns and talks more sharply to Judas “Leave her alone. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” My tears of humiliation become tears of relief. He isn’t angry with me after all. He seems to realise that it was an act of adoration. I don’t really understand what he means. He isn’t going to die is he? Not yet? He’s a hero. But a small feeling of doubt starts to niggle my heart that maybe I’ve just opened the door to the plotting of others. That I’ve anointed him with the spices of burial. That things are all about to change.
Based on John 12:1-11