Peace be with you!
Jesus had hundreds of people around him most of the time – people who listened to his every word, people who believed he was the Son of God, and people who challenged his authority. He was loved deeply by his disciples and followers. Jesus took care of the sick, the crippled*, the poor, and the hungry.
But who took care of Jesus? For the most part, God the Father took care of Jesus’ needs by providing him with the essentials. In the Gospel reading, Mary and Martha are tending to Jesus’ needs after he just raised Lazarus, their brother, from the dead. Martha prepares a dinner to celebrate Lazarus being alive. As Jesus heads to the cross, Mary anoints his body for burial – a selfless act performed on Jesus’ behalf. Jesus will show his disciples the same kind of love when he washes their feet at the Last Supper. Like Mary, Jesus expresses his humility towards his disciples – the Master is not greater than his workers.
Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and wipes them with her hair (John 12:3a). When people anointed others’ feet, it was common to use water and to be done by a servant. When people are anointed with oil, it is normally done on the head. Mary shows humility when she anoints Jesus’ feet with the expensive nard perfume and wipes them with her hair. She anoints Jesus out of love for he has done good works and performed miracles to help the sick, the crippled*, the poor, and the hungry. Mary shows her loyalty to Jesus through this selfless act.
Judas Iscariot is outraged with Mary for wasting such an expensive perfume on anointing Jesus’ feet when it could have been sold and helped the poor (John 12:4-5). At least that is what he says out loud, but the author clues us in to Judas’ selfish reasons for wanting to keep the perfume. Judas takes care of the common purse and sometimes steals out of it (John 12:6).
Jesus scolds Judas Iscariot for being harsh with Mary when she has done a great service for him. Mary brought the perfume for the day of his burial (John 12:7). In Biblical times, family members would anoint the dead before burial as a way to show them honor. By anointing Jesus before his death, Mary is showing him her devotion, loyalty, and love. She is making preparations for his journey to the cross and beyond.
Jesus also states the poor will always be in the world, but he will not always be with us (John 12:8). There will always be someone who needs assistance – physically, psychosocially, or spiritually. Someone in the world will always need shelter; others will need clothes; others will need food and water; others will need prayers. The world is a needy place where someone will always need something. However, Jesus will not always physically be in the world. Mary is taking the opportunity to express her devotion, loyalty, and love for Jesus – the one who brought her brother back to life, the one who has healed so many, the one who has taken care of the poor, and the one who will die for our sins. Mary does the one thing she could do for Jesus – anoint him for burial.
I would like to think that Mary does it on everyone’s behalf, because if I could, I would anoint Jesus for burial. Yet everything I do is in Jesus’ honor. I volunteer weekly at the local hospital to bring comfort to those who are sick. I write to share the good news of the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I pray with others to give them comfort in their time of need. You express your devotion, loyalty, and love for Jesus in the way you treat others with forgiveness, grace, humility, and love.
Thanks be to God!
* The word “crippled” is not a politically correct term, but it is used in the Bible, which is why I am using it here.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for having Mary anoint Jesus for burial to express her devotion, loyalty, and love for Jesus. Help us to express our devotion, loyalty, and love for Jesus through the way we tend to the needs of others. Remind us of Mary’s humility the next time we get ahead of ourselves. We are no greater than the ones who serve us. Thank you for those who tend to our needs, so we can help others. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How do you express your devotion, loyalty, and love to Jesus? And to other people?
2. How have you been anointed?