by Sue Collins
(Based on John 12:1-8)
This is such an appropriate reading for today, the 5th Sunday in Lent. Holy Week is approaching and the passion and death of Jesus lie immediately ahead;
– both for the characters in John’s Gospel
– and for us here today in this world and time.
We are reading about and considering the Love Jesus has for us; that costly love he is walking in as he journeys towards the cross.
We consider too the costly love of Mary, who flouts society’s mores as she accompanies Jesus through these times.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus has come again to Bethany. Here is a lovely domestic coming together of friends: Jesus with his disciples is welcomed into the family home where he experiences as much or more of ‘being home’ as he has had anywhere else in his ministry.
His three friends give this dinner.
Lazarus sits with Jesus, while Martha serves the meal.
And then Mary comes forward and the scene changes dramatically. She anoints Jesus’s feet with a pound of costly perfume, then wipes them with her hair … and the fragrance fills the room.
There is disbelief all round. There is wonder, and anger too.
Mary’s action is an extravagant act of wordless devotion. Counting no cost, she anoints Jesus.
‘Not counting the cost’ can be dangerous: it can have extreme consequences. What matters is the motive behind it, the why of it. That’s what might justify or condemn the act.
Mary’s understanding of Jesus’s situation is far beyond the other disciples’ understanding.
And, her anointing of Jesus feet is a kind of prophetic action, signalling Jesus’s imminent death, anointing him beforehand for burial.
She can comprehend, and accept, what Peter and the other disciples cannot: the death of their master and Messiah.
The disciples don’t understand. The majority of them are men of their time, and they stand, too sure of themselves to feel the ache which Mary feels. This is a legacy of their time, this assumed superiority in their ‘maleness’, which in their own minds and their society’s values rates them above Mary.
They are walking the days with Jesus, stoically, fearful for his safely but oblivious of that inexorable nearing of his earthly end time, and all that that means.
Here is Costly Love:
Jesus’s love for us and for the world is so amazingly wonderful.
Mary’s act of anointing in that time speaks to us here in our time. It speaks in the midst of a world of treachery and betrayal, both in the world that was, among Jesus followers, and in our world of today.
Today, we live our lives in the shadow of the cross. But, we also live in the presence of the Risen Christ, in whose love we endeavour to reach out in acts of compassion and generosity, and in moments of worship.
And we live all of this in a world which lives in a mind-set of scarcity, rather than a mindset of abundance, in a world that tempts us to close in and to give little.
We are individually called to open up to costly love.