The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
In John 12:3-8 we find Jesus at the dinner with Lazarus. Martha has been mentioned as the one serving. What about Mary? She puts a very expensive ointment on Jesus’ feet and wipes it with her hair. The ointment was appropriate for burial. It is described as being “nard, the real stuff, crazy expensive” (personal translation). There are all sorts of people here with different responses. Mary and Martha are both serving Jesus in their own ways. Lazarus was reclining with him to dine, a sign of respect and welcome. What about Judas, the one disciple mentioned here? His desire is to serve himself. While he says the ointment could have been sold to care for the poor, John reminds us that Judas was in the habit of profiteering from his position as the money-keeper of the apostles.
Jesus’ response is that it was fine that he would be anointed for his burial. What Mary did has his approval. It is fine to spend a tremendous amount of money to do something which brings honor to Jesus.
It is not unusual for me, as a pastor in a relatively “conservative” and liturgical movement, to be confronted with the apparent “waste” involved in having vestments, costly decorations in a church, communion and baptism equipment which is actually made of precious metals, and the like. Why is the money not spent on bringing the Gospel to the poor? Or, sometimes, in a way that raises my ire, people will ask why we insist on the task of encouraging and praying when we really need to be doing somehing that’s useful, like giving people money or engaging in political activism. Yes, it angers me when people so despise Christ and His Gospel.
I guess we should expect it. There will always be someone around who will not see that what we do as Christians, bringing honor to the Christ, will eventually end up bringing God’s grace and eternal life to others. In the action of recognizing Jesus as the one who dies and is buried for the sins of the world, we bring that news to those for whom he died. We are then ready to look to him as the resurrection and the life.
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