The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 12:1-8

YOU MAY RECALL THAT JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES HAD BEEN IN HIDING BECAUSE THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES WERE LOOKING FOR JESUS SO THEY COULD ARREST HIM. WHEN HE RECEIVED WORD THAT HIS FRIEND LAZARUS HAD DIED, HE WAITED A FEW DAYS BEFORE RETURNING TO BETHANY, AND THEN RAISED LAZARUS FROM THE TOMB WHERE HE HAD BEEN FOR FOUR DAYS. THIS MIRACULOUS TRIUMPH OVER DEATH HAD SERIOUS REPERCUSSIONS; MANY OF THE PEOPLE NOW BELIEVED IN JESUS, SOME TURNED AWAY OUT OF FEAR, AND THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES WERE MORE THAN EVER CONVINCED THAT JESUS HAD TO BE PUT TO DEATH. IT WOULD BE AN UNDERSTATEMENT TO SAY THAT THINGS WERE VERY TENSE IN JERUSALEM AND THE SURROUNDING REGION. THE AREA WAS PACKED WITH PEOPLE GETTING READY FOR THE PASSOVER CELEBRATION, AND SIX DAYS BEFORE ITS START, JESUS RETURNED TO BETHANY WHERE LAZARUS, MARY, AND MARTHA GAVE A DINNER FOR HIM.

ALTHOUGH THE SCRIPTURES DO NOT SAY SO, IT IS IMPLIED THAT LAZARUS WAS A MAN OF SOME MEANS. HE DID HAVE HIS OWN TOMB, AND A HOUSE LARGE ENOUGH TO HOST JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES; AND THE ABILITY TO FEED A SIZABLE PARTY. WHILE A POOR FAMILY WOULD SIT ON RUGS TO TAKE THEIR MEALS, THE WEALTHIER WOULD RECLINE ON LOW COUCHES, OR CUSHIONS, SET AROUND A LOW TABLE. THERE THEY WOULD LIE ON THEIR LEFT SIDES, WITH A PILLOW UNDER THEIR LEFT ARM PIT, AND EAT FROM THE COMMON DISH WITH THEIR RIGHT HANDS. THE MEN WOULD RECLINE TO EAT, WITH THEIR FEET, COVERED BY THEIR ROBES, POINTED AWAY FROM THE FOOD. THE WOMEN OF THE HOUSEHOLD WOULD BUSTLE AROUND THE FRONT OF THE COUCHES SERVING AND REFILLING DISHES. MARTHA, PROBABLY WITH THE AID OF SERVANTS, SERVED THE MEAL; BUT MARY HAD AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FOCUS.

IN THE MIDST OF THE DINNER, AS THE MEN NO DOUBT TALKED ABOUT IMPORTANT MATTERS, SUCH AS THE GOINGS ON IN JERUSALEM, THE HOUSE WAS SUDDENLY FILLED WITH THE SCENT OF A WONDROUSLY BEAUTIFUL PERFUME. AS THEY LOOKED FOR THE SOURCE OF THIS EXOTIC SCENT, THEY DISCOVERED THE MOST SHOCKING SCENE. THERE WAS MARY, ON HER KNEES AT THE FEET OF JESUS, ANOINTING HIS FEET WITH A SALVE THAT COST A YEAR’S WAGES, AND WIPING HIS FEET WITH HER UNBOUND LONG BLACK HAIR. WOMEN DID NOT SHOW THEIR HAIR TO ANYONE EXCEPT THEIR HUSBAND, AND WOMEN DID NOT TOUCH ANY MAN EXCEPT A MEMBER OF THEIR OWN FAMILY, AND NOT EVEN THEM IN PUBLIC. I’M CERTAIN THAT THE SCANDALOUS SCENE SHOCKED EVERYONE INTO SILENCE AS A PRELUDE TO HORRIFIED OUTRAGE. ONE VOICE FULL OF OUTRAGE SPOKE UP IMMEDIATELY; THAT OF JUDAS, WHO DEMANDED TO KNOW WHY THE PERFUME WAS NOT SOLD AND THE MONEY PUT INTO THE PURSE FOR THE POOR; THE PURSE HE CONTROLLED. THE FOCUS OF JUDAS COULD NOT BE MORE DIFFERENT FROM THAT OF MARY.

ALTHOUGH WHAT JUDAS SAID SOUNDS GOOD, THE GOSPEL WRITER TELLS US THAT HE WAS A THIEF, AND, THEREFORE, CONCERNED ONLY WITH HIMSELF. JESUS’ REBUKE OF JUDAS SOUNDS AS IF HE IS UNCONCERNED WITH THE POOR, BUT, IN FACT, IN ALLUDING TO DEUTERONOMY 15:11, JESUS REMINDED JUDAS, AND US, THAT WE ARE COMMANDED TO SHOW GENEROSITY TOWARDS THE POOR, “FOR THERE WILL NEVER CEASE TO BE SOME IN NEED UPON THE EARTH.” THE FOCUS FOR A DISCIPLE OF JESUS MUST ALWAYS BE TOWARDS THE OTHER AND NOT TOWARDS OUR SELVES. MARY’S ACT SHOWS THE HEART OF THE TRUE DISCIPLE, BECAUSE IN HER WILDLY EXTRAVAGANT ACT, SHE GAVE UP ALL SHE HAD SAVED TO DO WHAT WAS NEEDED IN THAT MOMENT. OF ALL THOSE AT THE DINNER, MARY IS THE ONLY ONE WHO SEES CLEARLY WHAT IS COMING, AND THAT THIS MAY BE ONE OF THE LAST TIMES SHE WILL BE ABLE TO SERVE HER LORD, SO SHE ANOINTS HIS FEET AS SHE WOULD ANOINT THE FEET OF A CORPSE. IN SO DOING, SHE ANTICIPATES WHAT JESUS WILL COMMAND WHEN HE WASHES THE FEET OF HIS DISCIPLES; THAT WE ARE THE SERVANTS OF EACH OTHER, AND NONE MORE SO THAN THE LORD WHO IS IN OUR MIDST.

WHENEVER WE TALK ABOUT MONEY IN THE CHURCH, THINGS GET TENSE. AT THE START OF A CAPITAL CAMPAIGN, THERE IS ALWAYS THE DISCUSSION OF WHETHER WHAT IS PROPOSED IS THE BEST WAY TO USE THE LIMITED FUNDS AVAILABLE. GOOD STEWARDSHIP IS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE, AND GOOD PEOPLE MAY DISAGREE IN A LOVING WAY; BUT STEWARDSHIP IS ONLY A PART OF DISCIPLESHIP. TRUE DISCIPLESHIP TRANSCENDS CONCERNS ABOUT INCOME AND EXPENDITURE; IT IS ABOUT WHERE OUR PERSONAL FOCUS IS AS WE TRY TO LIVE AS DISCIPLES OF THE LORD JESUS. WHAT I GIVE TO BUILD A NEW PARISH HALL, REPAIR THE ORGAN, THE AIR CONDITIONER, OR THE LEAKY ROOF IS NEEDFUL AND IMPORTANT. IT IS A PART OF OUR CORPORATE LIFE TOGETHER. DISCIPLESHIP IS, HOWEVER, PERSONAL; IT IS ABOUT HOW I GIVE OF MYSELF AS A SERVANT OF LORD JESUS IN SERVICE TO OTHERS. AS MARY CAST ASIDE ALL BARRIERS OF CUSTOM AND TRADITION, SHOCKING ALL PRESENT WITH HER WANTON OUTPOURING OF HER WEALTH AND HER PERSONAL REPUTATION, WE ARE CALLED TO DO THE SAME AS A DISCIPLE OF THE LORD.

THE LORD JESUS ACCEPTED HER SACRIFICE AS HE SAID, “LEAVE HER ALONE. SHE BOUGHT IT SO THAT SHE MIGHT KEEP IT FOR THE DAY OF MY BURIAL. YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE POOR WITH YOU, BUT YOU DO NOT ALWAYS HAVE ME.” THE POOR ARE, INDEED, ALWAYS WITH US, AND OUR COMPASSION AND GENEROSITY FOR THEM IS AN UNENDING OBLIGATION. WE NO LONGER HAVE THE LORD WITH US AS HE WAS WITH MARY AND THE OTHERS AT THAT LONG AGO DINNER, YET HE IS WITH US STILL BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND HE CONTINUES TO SHARE THE SUPPER MEAL WITH US IN THE BREAD OF HIS BODY AND THE WINE OF HIS BLOOD. WHEN HE JOINS US TO NOURISH AND SUSTAIN US IN OUR LIFE OF DISCIPLESHIP, WE MUST REMEMBER THAT WE, AS OUR SACRIFICE TO HIM, OFFER UP OURSELVES TO HIM; OUR SOULS AND BODIES.

MARY’S WANTONLY EXTRAVAGANT SACRIFICE WAS ACCEPTABLE IN THE SIGHT OF OUR LORD AND GOD; SO TOO, THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICE OFFERED BY A DISCIPLE OF THE LORD IS THE WANTONLY EXTRAVAGANT SACRIFICE OF EVERYTHING WE ARE.
AMEN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>