Paxtonvic’s Blog

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Blog neglect

Ive missed blogging of late, but seen busy – ( a bit busier than usual)

Today it has struck me how incredibly brave people can be – in all sorts of ways – and when very hard things happen to thoroughly good people – how courageous the human spirit can be in coping.

Its getting near to Holy Week now – such a special time- I love the story of Mary annointing Jesus’ feet with that valuable ointment – spikenard. We had that reading last sunday.

Ive a little homily about that – but I must say many of the ideas come from the thisischurch.com web-site.

John Chapter 12:1-8

Bethany means ‘place of the poor.’ In our Bible passage Jesus is anointed with really expensive perfume an action which might be considered totally unsuitable in a place of poor people!
Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. This house should have been a house filled with mourning and sorrow, instead it is the centre of attention as the dead man and his saviour gather to eat. The people around would clearly want to see this Lazarus who had been raised after four days. Bethany is a small village only a couple of miles from Jerusalem and it would also have been crowded with pilgrims who had come to observe Passover in Jerusalem at this time. People would also have wanted to come closer to Jesus who had this extraordinary power over death, they would have wondered what he could do for them also?
Jesus is with Mary and Martha and Lazarus, who he raised from the dead. Mary, the same Mary who had sat at the feet of Jesus as her sister Martha had been ‘distracted with much serving, is once again centre stage. Once again Martha is serving, and once again Mary is rapt with love and devotion, sitting at his feet. But now Mary springs into action. In one spontaneous, reckless and, some would say wasteful gesture of extravagance, she anoints the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume and wipes them with her hair! It’s a very sensual, a very intimate, and a very shocking scene. For a woman to let her hair down in public in this way and behave towards Jesus with such physical intimacy must have aroused considerable attention and scorn. To let down her hair and massage the feet of Jesus with perfume is quite a highly charged act in any culture, but at the time it was positively outrageous. We can all imagine how the disciples must have wanted to have a go at Mary for being such a tramp and behaving in this shameless fashion.

Remember, this was no ordinary bottle of perfume but rather one costing a years salary. Can you imagine what you would have said had you witnessed this scene of such lavish adoration? Judas beat us all to it when he complained about apparent waste, claiming that the money could instead have been given to the poor.

The biblical account tells us that Judas was not really concerned about the poor, we are told that he was a thief and helped himself to the money that the disciples shared with Jesus. This explanation discredits Judas but perhaps it also serves to demonstrate that the other disciples too, felt that it was a waste of money which would legitimately have helped ‘the poor.’

Judas challenged Mary on the grounds of extravagance, but we know from Matthew’s Gospel that all of the disciples disliked the waste of perfume being used on Jesus. Matthew in his Gospel says
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. (Matthew 26:8)
In Mark’s Gospel too he records that it was “some who were there” who protested. (Mark 14:4), not just Judas!
Truthfully all of us would be appalled when we heard about this lewd behaviour and flagrant waste. Everybody except Jesus. Jesus defends Mary: “Leave her alone, ” he says. “She is anointing me, making preparations for my death. ”

Jesus knows how much Mary loves him, and he recognises the goodness in her devotional act of extravagant love. She loved Jesus, and she poured out her love like priceless perfume, like there was no tomorrow, without ever counting the cost. The perfume Mary poured out was worth a year’s wages, would we be prepared to pour out that kind of money on somebody we love? Would we be prepared to pour it out on Jesus?
Mary had much to be thankful to Jesus for, he had raised her dead brother Lazarus from his stinking tomb, how could she deny Jesus her best perfume? What Mary did was highly provocative, but she was highly motivated and her spontaneous act of loving gratitude could not be inhibited by social etiquette. Mary responds to the love and acceptance she found in Jesus. Her affection for Jesus is an example to us all. It is not the time to talk budgets, but to show love. What Mary did was outstanding. She gave Jesus not just words or promises about her love. She put those words into direct action. She did not consider the cost because her love was greater than financial considerations. We need so very much to learn the lesson which Jesus understood about generosity when he publicly approved of what she did. The woman’s response stands in contrast to that of the Chief Priests and Judas who will serve them in their wicked murder of Jesus. It is also a contrast to the behaviour of Peter and the disciples. In the Gospels Jesus is pictured as abandoned by his inner circle of disciples. In the end it will be a few women who are left standing near Golgotha and who will venture to the tomb. The unlikely ones in Mark and John’s world, the women, become the models.

This is a deliberately subversive passage, and reflects so much of the experience of Jesus’ ministry. Others were so good, so devout, and so busy trying to be holy that they missed the point. This action made by the woman when she breaks the perfume container open and spreads the contents over Jesus’ feet, speaks louder than a thousand words. Mark even suggests that Jesus predicted how memorable her act would be.

Jesus was surrounded by many of noble lives, high religious prestige and good moral deeds. It was none of these which attracted him, nor those who like Peter spoke strongly of their unswerving loyalty. Mary had faith in Jesus and she put that faith into an act of extravagant loving devotion. In so washing his feet her actions spoke louder than words, she showed that love which is beyond that which words can express.

All of this provoked the Jewish chief priests and we are given a glimpse of why they want to have Jesus and Lazarus put to death. Simply they are envious and greedy and do not want Jesus to take over their religious authority. Jesus was just too popular and this would have implications for them and their status in the community. There was no answer, Jesus had to go. In a short time this greed will end in the cross for Jesus.

* Note that: Mark and Matthew say that this annointing  occurred while Jesus was in Bethany relaxing at the home of Simon the Leper….. which suggests to me that study of the different  accounts in all four gospels would be rewarding… if not confusing.

*spikenard plant

March 22, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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