John 12:1-11, NIV 2011 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.l And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.b” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” 9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.
The story of Lazarus is an incredible one. A friend of Jesus’ who had died four days before Jesus could get to him. After he had been buried and all hope of his restoration passing, Jesus shows up to bring him up from the grave. It was a foretaste of what was to come with Jesus in only a few short weeks, but with much greater impact. Where Lazarus had been dead and Jesus resuscitated Lazarus to prove his authority over death, Jesus would be resurrected to prove his authority over all things. But the disciples and the those around couldn’t know that. What they did know is that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and that was enough to mark him as both glorious and dangerous.
When Jesus and the disciples show up six days before passover to enjoy a meal to celebrate Jesus, he was met with excitement and skepticism. All of the participants reclined on the floor around a round table with their feet sticking out to the side. Engaged in conversation about a variety of things, everyone hung on the words of Jesus and his presence among them. At one point, a woman named Mary approached Jesus and sat at his feet. As she sat down, no doubt the people around the table began to glance down at her wondering what was happening. As she took down her hair, she pulled out a jar of perfume - valued at a year’s income. Then she simply poured the perfume Jesus feet and began to rub his feet with her hair. If we will take a moment to look into it, then we will see that it was one of the most intimate of pictures the Scriptures paint regarding the LORD. Mary’s world had been turned upside down by the events of her brother’s death and then his subsequent raising. No doubt she had spent the several weeks following pondering the wonder of what Jesus had done. We don’t know much about the overall circumstance of Lazarus and his sisters, but we can say with confidence that following his raising everything was much different. Before they were astounded by Jesus’ teaching and even the signs of his authority, but never before had they been so touched by them. It was far more personal now. It is possible that Jesus’ raising of Lazarus preserved the sisters and their livelihood - Lazarus may have been their source of income. It could have been that Lazarus was their source of protection and in his absence the world looked much different. However, I believe what’s more important is that Jesus clearly hit the heart of the situation. The sisters were truly grateful - which explains the meal and the anointing. Something stands out to me in the passage. The authors of John’s Gospel record that: “ the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Everyone in the house was called to see, smell, and consider this great act of love.
It’s here that the focus changes and humanity’s most deep seated problem comes to the surface: pride of life. The Gospel according to John records the anger of Jesus’ disciple Judas and the hostility of the religious leaders (John’s usage of “Jews” is almost always a reference to the religious leaders and not simply the people) caused them to completely miss the point. Judas saw the anointing as a waste - money completely thrown away by the act of a foolish woman, thus proving all the more that he didn’t truly love Jesus, but money - and the prestige that comes from it. The religious leaders saw Jesus and Lazarus as a threat to their own identity as the shepherds of Israel, thus proving that they didn’t truly love Israel, but their position of authority - and the prestige that came from it.
The fragrance in the room calls them to the depth of the Love.
The fragrance that lingered around them as they sought ways to undermine the Love that could not be denied.
The fragrance that was intended to prepare them for the greatest act of Love they would ever know.
The fragrance that would either awaken or numb people to the smell of death in their own lives.
Sunday is Coming!