John 12:1-11 (https://my.bible.com/bible/111/JHN.12.1-11)
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 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. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ” 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. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” 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. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”
The events of today most likely took place on a Saturday evening following the Sabbath. It appears a group had gathered to break the Sabbath and enjoy table fellowship with Jesus. Tensions were high, no doubt. Passover was always a time of joy and celebration, but it brought frustration as well. Rome was still in power. Herod was still a puppet king and Pilate still had something to prove. All this while, people tried to remember God’s history of walking ahead of Israel and his promises to provide for them hope in a world that reeked of death and despair.
Jesus and his disciples had gathered to share a meal and many in the community had come to join them. While the story of Lazarus’ raising from the dead was fresh in the minds of those present, there was an ominous aroma in the air. Jesus’ presence always seemed to bring a savor of wonder and excitement, but now seemed to bring a notable smell of fear. Every leader has a point where it comes time to put up or shut up. No doubt the disciples liked the positive attention, but three years of consistently ruffling the feathers of religious and political leaders can take a toll. A time comes when really the unspoken expectations of the crowd begin to surface and the scent of frustration and monotony begin to take over. People begin to say things like, “What’s next?”, “What’s your vision here?” or “Where are we going?” As Jesus sits with his guests, I am sure that many around him had begun to wonder these questions in some way. What was rolling around in their heads had begun to come out in their conversations leaving a stench of doubt and even contempt. But others, found that the presence of Jesus still smelled sweet. Jesus’ being with them meant that life had purpose–even promise. Every time he spoke, it ushered in a spirit of peace like a cool breeze filled with narcissus in the spring. When Jesus walked in a room, the scent of hope with every smile, nod, and laugh settled an uneasy soul.
Yet the fatigue seems to be setting in with Him as well. He looks worn and wearied, maybe even a little concerned. They can’t make it out, but he seems so focused that his demeanor is even a little unsettling. It wasn’t terribly abnormal because he was known to get a little sideways at times, but this just seems different. His presence still brings a confidence of a new future much like rain on a thirsty land, but he seems so focused, so intense.
As Mary enters the room, she settles a Jesus’ feet. She takes out a bottle and breaks the top. As she begins to pour the liquid onto his feet, the beautiful fragrance takes over the room. It’s a smell that speaks of gratefulness. Filling the room with the scent of thankfulness like a traveler who finds an oasis in the desert. The lavishness of the joy and appreciation is felt as Mary lowers her hair and begins washing the feet of Jesus with it. She weeps, but no one dare ask why. We can only assume her reasons, but then again it’s really not up to us to decide why. Mary has done us all a favor. In this deliberate act of generosity, Mary has allowed everyone to give voice to their inner dialogue. In one fell swoop, Mary has allowed us all to say what is in our hearts, even if we can’t find the words to say it.
21 centuries later, the aroma still fills the room.
Go in Peace!