Monday, March 19, 2007

Accepting Mary's Extravagance in John 12:1-11

Mary's gesture towards Jesus stands out. Her affection is the kind reserved for someone you dearly love. The nard that she pours on his feet filled the air. Her love was clear for all to see at the table. Judas Iscariot named his outrage. It was extravagant; besides, the money could have been used for the poor. But Jesus didn't stop her. No he accepted the gift and her.

Why Mary anointed Jesus is beyond our knowledge. It was extravagant and it was intimate. Maybe it was an act of thanksgiving for the brother who she had seen restored. Maybe she wanted to show total devotion. Whatever her reasons we know that others wanted nothing to do with him while she wanted to be even closer to him.

The more power Jesus displayed the angrier the people who wanted him dead became. The gospel writers leave little doubt that there was a party in Israel who wanted him dead. All 4 gospels tell us repeatedly about the Pharisees who were enraged at Jesus' actions. But they also leave little doubt that many others in Israel wanted to come see and hear him. The people who came believing in Jesus wanted their sick to be healed by him. They wanted to come to him to see and to know the power that he had to change lives.

Jesus circle of friends expanded far beyond his hometown of Nazareth. The poor souls tormented by daemons knew him as the one who set them free. The sinners who everybody else complained about knew him too. His circle of friends had space for prostitutes, tax-collectors, and sinners. There was room for the sick and the down caste too.

As Jesus welcomed many into his fellowship others chose to walk away from him. Their contempt for his outrageous generosity grew. In John 11 we see them plot to kill him. Jesus' fame was too great for the Pharisees to watch. The people wanted to be with Jesus after he raised Lazarus from the dead. And the Pharisees wanted to kill him. These teachers of the law couldn't let it continue. They knew better than this one who healed the sick and caste out daemons. They would choose death for him rather than let him continue his outrageous ministry that reached out to those who needed healing the most.

The group who wanted him dead was small; but they were powerful. The Pharisees allied themselves with the Chief Priests, and their soldiers, insuring that Jesus, the man they so detested, would be killed. Maybe they were motivated by jealousy. Maybe they were motivated by rage at his power to love those who they were certain were unclean and unloveable.

Whatever the motive they were ready to get justice. Sadly, John has wrongly named this small powerful group, “Jews.” They didn't represent all the people of Israel or all Jews. Watching Mary's gesture of love proves that again to us all. She loved him heart and soul. She loved him and the sweet nard that covered his feet and filled the air testified to that deep love.

No comments: