April 4, 2001


Scripture Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8


            Todayís Gospel lesson takes place the night before Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem, which we will celebrate on Sunday.  Jesusí ministry was at its peak; He had a large following.  The crowds gathered to listen to Him speak about the kingdom of God.  The people constantly sought Him to heal their illnesses and cast out their demons.  There was talk among the disciples about making Jesus king of an earthly kingdom.  They saw Him as the Messiah, the king of the Jews.  But their image of the Messiah was one who would take the world by force.  It would be easy for Him to do.  Though His followers were not a mighty army, they were willing to do anything for Him.  By the time He rode into Jerusalem, the people were in such a frenzy that it would have taken just one word from Jesus for them to rise to fight.

            There were many that did not love Jesus.  The chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the high court.  The work Jesus was accomplishing Ė the miracles and the harsh statements against the leaders Ė frightened them.  They were also concerned about the possibility of the people rising up against the Romans.  The leadership knew that if the people fought, they would loose their positions of authority in the Roman Empire.  The Romans would blame them for the uprising and remove them, placing Romans in those positions to keep control of Jerusalem.  The religious freedoms that were enjoyed by the Jews would be suspended and they would have to worship according to Roman values.  Most of all, they did not want to loose their power, prestige and wealth.

            It had been an incredible time in the ministry of Jesus.  While He was healing and teaching, He learned His dear friend Lazarus was sick.  He did not travel to Bethany immediately; rather He waited two days before making the journey.  By the time Jesus arrived at the tomb, Lazarus had been dead for four days.  There is great significance in this number.  In the days of Jesus, many believed that the soul stayed near the body for three days, so there was hope for the person to be revived.  For the family and friends of Lazarus, there was no longer any hope.  His soul was gone and nothing could be done.  Jesus purposely waited to raise Lazarus.  Raising people from the dead was not new for Jesus; He had done so before.  But this was His beloved friend, and Jesus grieved at this death.  He told Mary, Martha and the other mourners that in this act they would see Godís glory.  By raising Lazarus on the fourth day, Jesus showed that God is not limited by our beliefs.  Godís power extends beyond our thoughts and understanding.

            So, in todayís Gospel lesson, everyone had much to celebrate.  Lazarus was alive, Jesus was at the peak of His ministry and the disciples thought the culmination of their hard work lie just moments away in Jerusalem.  They had reason to celebrate.  Lazarus threw a party in Jesusí honour.  Not everyone was rejoicing, however.  Jesus knew what lie ahead and He knew His disciples did not truly understand His purpose.  There was one who seemed to know, and that was Mary.

            Mary loved Jesus.  She had so much to be grateful for.  Jesus had treated her with respect in an age when women were not respected.  Jesus had wept with her over the death of her brother.  And Jesus had brought Lazarus back to life when there was no hope.  Mary was thankful, and she showed Him her love in the only way she knew how Ė by giving herself completely to Him.  She not only gave Him the expensive perfume, but she gave Him her heart and soul.  She was humbled before Him, making herself to be like a servant.  Only a servant would touch someoneís feet.  A woman in Maryís position would have kept her hair clean and neat and bound on her head.  But she let her hair down and risked destroying its beauty by wiping Jesusí feet with it.  She anointed His feet with oil, a simple act and yet one with great significance.  Mary was anointing a king, her king.  She was anointing Him with a perfume that was purchased to be used for His burial.  Did she know He would die in less than a week?  We canít be sure, but we do know that she did not wait to use it.  She submitted herself to her King before He was gone, in thankfulness and love. 

             Mary had a deep desire to honour Jesus.  It didnít matter to her how she looked to the others.  It didnít matter to her that she appeared as a servant.  It didnít matter to her that her hair was unkempt and dirty from the ointment.  It didnít matter to her that Judas thought she had wasted so much money over a frivolous act.  All that mattered to her was that Jesus knew that she loved Him.

            Paul writes to the Philippians, ďWhat is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.Ē  This is how Mary felt and she wanted Jesus to know that day that she had faith in Him.    

            She bought the perfume to anoint Him for His burial, but she refused to wait.  She wanted Him to know.  Everything else was unimportant.  What is important to you this day?  Do you have an image you are trying to maintain?  Is there someone that you should forgive or ask forgiveness but you are holding back because you are concerned about your image?  Is there someone you love but are holding back because you are afraid you will be rejected?  Is there something you should do today, but are holding back for some reason?  Most importantly, how is your relationship with Jesus Christ?  Are you willing to anoint Him as your king, despite your image or desires?  Mary recognized the great gifts of God through Christ Jesus and she seized the moment to give Him the honor that He deserved.

            Next week, we will celebrate Jesusí victorious ride into Jerusalem, share with Him His final meal, cry in Gethsemane as He submits Himself completely to the will of God and finally face that final moment of pain and horror as He dies on the cross for our sins.  Do you recognize this, the greatest gift of God?  We look to the cross to see what Christ did for us.  He died so that we can be forgiven and approach His throne of Grace.  He was raised so we can have eternal life as an heir to His kingdom.  As we live in this life, He continues to give us with His many blessings of love, mercy, peace, grace, hope and joy.  Do you recognize the gifts of God through Christ Jesus in your life?  How will you honour Him today?  You canít anoint His feet, but you can forgive someone, tell a friend how much you love them, confess a sin, share a meal, laugh or cry with someone who needs a friend.  Donít wait until it is too lateÖ do it today, and show Christ your love and thankfulness.

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