1Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
In today’s Gospel lesson, there seems to be several instances of what one might perceive as foolishness. But it is God’s wisdom that reigns victorious in the end!
There is on the surface some wisdom in this passage. Jesus comes to visit Lazarus - whom he raised from the dead. Remember when Jesus was about to go into the tomb to raise him, but was asked, “Jesus, are you sure you want to do that? Lazarus had dead four days, and he stinks!”
The sweet perfume filled the air in the room where the stench of death hung heavily just a short time ago. But, ah the foolishness. Why is Mary using such an expensive thing on Jesus? A bottle of perfume that would cost one year’s wages! One year’s wages. You do the math. It is an expensive gift. How foolish!
Judas is upset. “How foolish it is to do this! The money should go to the poor.” What a nice thought from Judas, don’t you think? But the Gospel writer, John, gives us a little footnote - Judas wants the money for himself! For he is the treasurer!
Wait! How foolish is that? To let Judas Iscariot be the treasurer? I guess it goes to show us how foolish Jesus thought money and earthly goods can be!
But what is Mary doing? What is she doing to Jesus? Washing his feet? No! That could be done with a towel and a basin of water. No. Mary is anointing Jesus. Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, which literally means the Anointed One, the chosen one of God!
In the Old Testament, God would send a prophet to go and find the chosen one, and when found, the prophet would anoint that one with oil, signifying that this one is the chosen one of God. In this act, Mary anoints Jesus. What a wonderful gift. She gives her all for her Lord and savior!
What a wonderful gift. But what does Mary use for this anointing? This perfume, this gift is a perfume used for burial. How foolish is that? Mary is anointing Jesus for death!
Ah, the foolishness of it all. Jesus the Messiah is anointed for death. In our Lenten journey we approach the end of the journey, the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the last days, his crucifixion and death. How foolish it all seems. Yet this is God’s foolishness, which is wiser than human wisdom. God knows what God is doing. What seems so foolish on the surface, is so very wise. God’s Son is anointed for death, because that is the battle he must face. He is victorious over sin and death!
He wins the victory for you and for me. Your sins are forgiven. New life is yours. All you have to do is know that God wins for us!
Yet how foolish we are, for we live each day under the burden of sin, separation from God. We live out this separation by trying to save ourselves. We take the gift of God for granted, or we even forget about it. We do foolish things. We make foolish decisions.
God looks at us, he foolish children and must wonder why we don’t listen. Why don’t we understand? God tells us to let go of the things that the world tells us are important, and do something foolish for God. Serve others, care for others, love others! That is what it is all about.
Because of what Jesus has done for you and me, may we free ourselves from trying to be wise human beings, and instead be wise Christians, who seek God’s wisdom, and not the wisdom of the world! May we do that which God is calling us to do!
Let us pray: Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness, and your grace waters our desert. Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing, that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love given to all through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.