An Extravagent Gift



Scripture: John 12:1-11
Holy Monday
March 30, 2015

Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound, of very expensive perfume made of pure nard.  She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair.  The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume. John 12:3

When was the last time you gave someone a gift worth your yearly salary?  Perhaps never? Mary offers this extravagant gift and not in some holier-than-thou way, a sort of hey look at me and what I can do way, but she presents it and gives it in the same way a slave would do something for his master.  The way you would honor someone who is the very presence of God.

She gets down on her knees and offers this gift to Jesus in the same way a slave would wash a master’s feet.

It’s like out of everyone in the room, Mary gets it. She understands that in order to follow Jesus she must become a servant to all and that devotion begins with her Messiah.

And she unleashes this powerful scent into the room, that over takes it so that her act cannot go unnoticed.  The smell permeates everything, perhaps even changing the taste of the food they are eating, because it is so overpowering.

 And while this odor is powerfully pouring into the room,
there sits Judas, counting, analyzing, dissecting, attempting to draw attention away from himself.  But we can smell a rat, even when there is noxious perfume in the air.

“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denari and the money given to the poor?”

Oh Judas, how easy it is for us to determine what should be done with someone else’s money and not our own.  It is much easier to give away someone else’s resources or to think when we see such extravagant gifts, “if only I had the resources to be so generous.”

While Mary acts, Judas talks and perhaps his words fall on deaf ears for even John clues us into the reality that his words are empty,
he is much more likely to steal from the treasury than to give to the poor.

Yet what he says captures our attention.  It’s not like what he has said,
what he has broken the silence with, is nonsense.  Before we start pointing fingers, let’s admit that there is present within all of us,
maybe just a very small part of us the curiosity to ask: “Why this waste?”  Maybe we are just relieved that Judas asked it
and we didn’t have to.  Maybe we would rather not be seen
as someone who is calculating and analyzing while this gracious act brings us to a point of emotional overload. 

You see there is a time and a place for the sort of conversation that Judas tries to start.  There is a time and a place for that kind of intellectual adventure, for asking difficult questions and calculating resources and response to great need.  As Jesus reminds us
we will always have the poor with us, the best use of a gift of 300 denari need not be argued about here.

Holy Week is not that time:  Because our mathematical skills
cannot quantify the cost of the cross.

And while we may be caught between the duality
 that John presents let us remember that both in their words
 and actions prepare Jesus for the road to the cross:  Mary with her anointing and Judas with his betrayal.

And Jesus recognizes and proclaims what Mary has done. 
“She bought it so that she might keep if for the day of my burial.”

You see Mary unleashed this gift, a gift which pales in comparison to the gift that Jesus offers to us all.  A gift which,
if we spend our time trying to calculate, will miss the larger scene unfolding:  because her actions foreshadow the death
and resurrection of Jesus, which unleashed the power of the Holy Spirit, whereby God’s love and forgiveness is unleashed on the whole world, permeating everything, saturating our world, so that we are unable to put it back, it cannot be reversed.
Thanks be to God. 

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