54 Jesus no longer moved around openly among the people of Judea. Instead, he went away to an area near the desert. He went to a village called Ephraim. There he stayed with his disciples. 55 It was almost time for the Jewish Passover Feast. Many people went up from the country to Jerusalem. They went there for the special washing that would make them pure before the Passover Feast. 56 They kept looking for Jesus as they stood in the temple courtyard. They asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the feast at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders. They had commanded anyone who found out where Jesus was staying to report it. Then they could arrest him. 12 It was six days before the Passover Feast. Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived. Lazarus was the one Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 A dinner was given at Bethany to honor Jesus. Martha served the food. Lazarus was among the people at the table with Jesus. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard. It was an expensive perfume. She poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the sweet smell of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot didn’t like what Mary did. He was one of Jesus’ disciples. Later he was going to hand Jesus over to his enemies. Judas said, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold? Why wasn’t the money given to poor people? It was worth a year’s pay.” 6 He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor. He said it because he was a thief. Judas was in charge of the money bag. He used to help himself to what was in it. 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “The perfume was meant for the day I am buried. 8 You will always have the poor among you. But you won’t always have me.”
Jesus has withdrawn from public ministry temporarily. Things are getting too ‘hot’, the ruling Jews want Jesus dead. The people gathered for this dinner are some of Jesus’ dearest friends, not a huge crowd. Lazarus, Martha and Mary are all there and Mary pours expensive oil all over Jesus feet. Jesus implies that Mary is the only one who understands that he is going to die.
What a difficult thing to honour in such a beautiful way. But this death was to be the forgiveness of sins for the world and the beginning of New Life for all who believe in His resurrection. I don’t think Mary understood all this, but she understood better than most, she had already seen her brother raised from the dead, even if not in a glorified body.
I am challenged to consider how I respond to the plans God makes that involve trial or pain. I need to honour some of these pains and trials in a beautiful way, for some of them will lead others to salvation, others will take me deeper into dependence on God. Just as the scars in Jesus hands, feet and side are a glorious reminder of the battle over death he won, so we must recognise that some of the painful times in life are actually building into the eternal Kingdom of God.
“Lord show me where the Champagne needs to be opened not just for joyous achievements, but also for faithfulness through pains suffered in your perfect plan. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58
Written by Andrew Mellor