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Windows into the Light by Michael Sullivan

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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Monday, April 6

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial.”
—John 12: 1-7

In this amazing story, we see Jesus preparing for his last days. The Passover is at hand; Jesus has already entered Jerusalem, and is visiting his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus just outside the city. It is a house where Jesus was no doubt well-received, having raised Lazarus from the dead—a place where Jesus felt at home, peaceful, relaxed, and ready to eat among friends.

In what appears to be a spontaneous act of love, Mary takes an extravagant amount of ointment and begins to anoint Jesus. This use of ointment that is worth roughly 300 days’ wages causes Judas to speak against Mary’s indulgence. Jesus, preparing for the inevitable, accepts the anointing. In the context of the Gospel according to John, it is the last rite of preparation before the cross.

I often wonder how I would have reacted to this scene. Would I, like Judas, issue forth a proclamation about the poor? Would my comment hide my jealously or my desire to use the money in my own self interests? Too often we assume we would be Mary. We think that, given the whole of the situation, we would surely have anointed Jesus as well. But the more we look into our souls, the more we discover Judas in our acts.

On this the first weekday of Holy Week, perhaps we should consider the Judas within us as we ponder this dinner party in the home of Mary and Martha. What can we learn from the anointing? What can we learn from Judas’s response? What can we learn about our own journey toward the cross?

As we walk with you through the streets of Jerusalem, O Christ, show us where we betray you. Help us acknowledge the Judas within so that we may claim the Mary you call us toward in your anointing. Amen.