5th Weekend in Lent - 4-2-2022
April 03, 2022 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: John 12:1-8
I want to start off by just, you know, thanking the congregation for the opportunity to be on sabbatical and take some intentional time away and some intentional time to focus on a particular project. It was a fun project to focus on, and I can't wait to share more about that later. And I'm not exactly sure when that report will be with with Easter coming up. And all that. It may not be until later, April or early May, somewhere around there. But stay tuned for that. Right. And my time away... I hope everything's okay. I noticed some tension Pastor Ryan. Emily came up here and told everyone to stuff an egg after worship, so I hope everything's going okay. [I guess we need to stuff some eggs.]!
I don't know about you all, but this this passage has always been odd in my mind for several different reasons. Where Jesus says, "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me," has has often been an excuse for people to not worry about the poor as much because, well, Jesus says it's just this perpetual cycle, so whatever. But I don't really. Find much value in that. I don't find much value in thinking of it that way. I'm not even sure Jesus meant it in that way. But we often take it that way. And sometimes we latch on to what Mary did and think that that is some sort of key to how to handle the poor as well, or handle our devotion to the church or something like that.
And I think what's very hard about this text is you can't really look at it as a way of of doing. There's there's really no right thing here. In fact, I actually think Mary and Judas are both correct in what they say and what they do here. I think that 300 denarii worth of perfume could be sold to benefit the poor. Every bit as much as it was used in this special moment to anoint Jesus. 300 Denarii--that was considered a year's wage for the average laborer. And so if we think about that in today's terms. You know, 28,000, $30,000. I don't know if some of you are perfume-wearers. Does that seem like a ridiculous amount? You can raise your hand, if that's. Is that well within the range? I don't see a lot of hands up. I got to lookin' a little bit and I realized that you can actually still buy Nard as a fragrance and I found it as is an essential oil anyway. It was like $65 per five millilitres. This is a root plant that grows in the Himalayas and at the time it was growing in India and they would be imported. So that was the value of it at the time. But on my internet journey, I found the luxury perfume market. I had no idea what you can spend for perfume. You can easily get into the millions of dollars for a bottle of perfume.
And this bottle is beautiful, adorned with diamonds and other precious gemstones. I don't even know why they put liquid in it. So yeah, I guess a year's wages for perfume is not necessarily unheard of. But yeah, to grab a pound of this stuff and anoint Jesus's feet with them. It's definitely a bit of an odd act, when you think of the way of this world.
But again, I don't feel like this passage is something to decode, to understand what to DO in the church in regards to the poor or in regards to service of the church in itself. I really see in this passage a tale of two disciples, Mary and Judas. And how both of them were followers of Jesus. But both of them came to radically different conclusions about Jesus, and both of them came to radically different actions for Jesus.
On the one hand, you have Mary, who initially when Jesus came to her house, you have that Mary and Martha's story, right? Where Martha's running around doing all the hosting duties. And there's a lot of things to do to host in this culture. And she's running around and getting all this done and realizing that Mary is not helping her at all. Mary's just sitting at Jesus's feet listening to him teach. To the point where Martha says, would you tell her to get up and help me a little bit? But Jesus says that Mary has chosen the best part of this.
And as Mary more and more was listening to Jesus and feeding off of Jesus's words, coming to the realization that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is the Son of God -- it comes to the point where Lazarus is sick. And they send word to Jesus saying such. And yet Jesus stays away and lets Lazarus die. And Mary gets angry about it. And says, Lord, if you had been here, my brother Lazarus would not have died. But still knowing who he is placed great trust and faith in him. And lo and behold, for the sake of everyone watching, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, unbind him and let him go. For I am the resurrection and the life.
Then they're at this dinner at their home in Bethany. And Jesus is there and Lazarus is there, alive again. And Mary apparently overcome by the emotion, takes this jar of perfume that was rather costly, rather exotic. Pours it all over Jesus feet. Stoops down on the ground and wipes it with her hair. Something that can only be interpreted as completely subservient. Not worried about yourself at all in that moment. Totally giving in to who Jesus is, realizing that the people that came that Jesus came to proclaim to are going to be the very people that put him to death. She anoints Jesus for his burial with money that could have been sold to the poor. Or for the benefit of the poor, I guess. It's a tale of recognizing Jesus for who Jesus is. And reacting accordingly.
There is no playbook for how to anoint Jesus at a time like this. There was no scripture passage. There was no teaching in the church, no solid doctrine for what to do in this moment. But Mary did it. And you contrast that with Judas, whom Jesus sought out as a disciple. Who walked with Jesus, saw Jesus' power in these miracles, saw Jesus stand up to the authorities. And then Judas realises this hope within Judas that Jesus is here. To finally take control. To take over. To restore Israel to the way it should be in the light of these oppressive Romans. Judas saw in Jesus a fulfillment of his own hoped-for destiny. And when Jesus didn't start meeting those expectations. Judas, who was with Jesus, who heard the teachings, who saw the miracles, the signs that He was indeed the Messiah. He began to steal from the purse. Sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. And in that betrayal, Jesus was crucified. Two very different portraits of people following the same Jesus.
I think it's a bit too simple for us to say that there's really only two ways the Mary way or the Judas way. And if you've picked the Judas way, it's too late for you. I think we all end up in these positions and I think we all are Mary and Judas. Sometimes it varies by the day, sometimes it varies by the hour. But in living this life, it's sometimes those moments where you recognize Jesus for who Jesus truly is, and it motivates you to do something truly great, truly special in the life of the church, in the life of this walk that we have together.
Some days, you're like Judas, where looking at Jesus just helps you to see your own failures. And you don't really see Jesus for who Jesus is. And you see the church for all it is. You see the worst of the church, the negativity. You see the worst of the world that Jesus has redeemed. And you act accordingly. Sometimes we just go through the motions for the sake of the motions themselves. Not really motivated by much other than we're supposed to. The beauty for you and me is that when we are in those merry moments and we truly recognize Jesus for who he is, we can celebrate that. But when we're in those Judas moments where we let our own selfishness get in the way, and try to bring Jesus to our expectations -- it doesn't affect who Jesus truly is for you and for me. For Jesus will always be the true son of God, the Messiah. Jesus will always be the one who was born for you. Died for you. Risen again to new life for you. So that we all may know forgiveness and the ultimate love of God. Jesus remains the same for all of us, no matter where we find ourselves in our lot in life, no matter where we find our mood, no matter if we feel like serving or feel like serving ourselves, Jesus will always love and forgive and do the things that Jesus does.
Jesus will always challenge our ways of authority and our complacency. Jesus will motivate. That is the beauty of this. And in this time of Lent, when we are thinking about our relationship to Jesus, thinking about our journey in this Christian walk as we have Jesus journey to the cross at this time of year. As we approach Easter it is a good time to take stock. In where our treasure truly is. And what is getting in the way of truly placing our treasures in heaven and focusing on the one true power in life. The power of that ultimate sacrificial love for you and for me. The power that Paul says, any earthly accomplishment he gives up is loss just to know Jesus. The power that draws us to this table to feast on the body and blood that Jesus freely offers us for strength in this journey. It is not a matter of always trying to be Mary and never trying to be Judas. It is a matter of knowing Jesus. And in knowing Jesus being compelled by the love that God has for this world. We are not alone in this journey. We have each other to help us to focus on what truly matters. Let us keep our treasure in heaven with Christ. So that we may be guided to love one another. As God indeed loves this world. Amen.