Jesus Anointed at Bethany
Six days before Passover Jesus went back to Bethany, where he had raised Lazarus from death. A meal had been prepared for Jesus. Martha was doing the serving, and Lazarus himself was there.
Mary took a very expensive bottle of perfume and poured it on Jesus' feet. She wiped them with her hair, and the sweet smell of the perfume filled the house.
A disciple named Judas Iscariot was there. He was the one who was going to betray Jesus, and he asked, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?” Judas did not really care about the poor. He asked this because he carried the moneybag and sometimes would steal from it.
Jesus replied, “Leave her alone! She has kept this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me.”
Imagine throwing a party for Mother Theresa and bringing an $800 bottle of wine as a gift. It wouldn't make sense, and everyone would raise an eyebrow in perplexity.
This is precisely the situation in this scene. And Judas is just saying out loud what everyone else is thinking: Jesus, you've spent three years teaching us to care for the poor, why in the world are you accepting this wasteful extravagance?
But Jesus' response helps us see that Mary's act isn't wasteful. By connecting it to his death, he reframes the moment. Mourn while I'm with you, Jesus is saying, so that you understand how my death is connected to my life and my mission to announce the Banquet Table.
And our service to the poor? That isn't separate from our commitment to Jesus; it's part of it. We've got until the end of time to care for the poor (and we should get on with it!). But it's when we learn to see Jesus as the supreme victim, the one who short-circuits our impulse to blame and scapegoat the victim, that our awareness of and empathy for the poor among us becomes rooted and permanent.
Outward Mindset Application Think of and implement one change in the way you do your job that would increase your helpfulness to coworkers who are affected by what you do.
Pathways Toward Centeredness Identify a social cause you care about. Do you have some extra dollars to contribute to a group doing good work in that context? If you're a praying person, consider attaching a prayer to your giving.
Questions for Consideration With which character in the story do you identify the most? Mary? Jesus? Judas? Anyone else? Is there anything in your life that you have interpreted as wasteful that might benefit from a re-frame?
Many of our reflections on each week's text come from other sources. If you're interested in reading more of what inspires us, here are our two favorite reflections: