Encountering God in the Wilderness – Monday 29th March 2021

The Wilderness of Judgement

John 12.1-11 (NRSV)

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus 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.’

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.


Today, we find Jesus at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We have met them before, when Martha was bustling about preparing food for Jesus and the guests, and Mary wasn’t helping. Mary was listening to Jesus. Martha was outraged that her sister wasn’t doing much to help, but Jesus told Martha, that Mary was doing the right thing, and then we have Lazarus, the brother who had been raised from death.

These people were friends of Jesus. He was enjoying a night of good food with those closest to him, a night he needed before he was going to face all that he was going to face, and then into that Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume and she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.

This act would have been extremely costly, the perfume was expensive, no cheap copy.

When Mary took the lid off that expensive bottle, tipped it downward, and began to pour that precious ointment onto Jesus’ feet, everyone in the room must have gasped! This kind of perfume was not normally used for feet! Rather, it was the kind of ointment used to anoint the heads of kings and dignitaries. Mary’s actions would have been considered a horrible waste in most people’s minds, but that wasn’t how she saw it. Marys gift that day showed how important Jesus was to her.

This act cost Mary financially, but also would have cost her socially too. It would’ve been shocking for people to see her loosen her hair and wipe Jesus’s feet. It would be seen as the act of a loose woman. But this didn’t seem to deter her.

It could be that she knew that Jesus was heading for death and things would happen quickly and this would be her only opportunity to anoint his body. She was going to do all she could for Jesus before he died. She obviously trusted Jesus, because other men might have shaken her off and been embarrassed by her. She trusted him and wanted to show her love off him, not seeming to care what others thought.

I can almost imagine her sister Martha thinking, what’s Mary up to now. Mary didn’t care. She wanted to show her love of Jesus and did that with the expensive perfume. We are called to love him and love others. And we often show that love through being in His presence, and from being in His presence, love flows to others and sometimes those actions of love may not be understood by others, just as Mary’s were not understood.

Sometimes we have jars of priceless perfume that we can give to others, I don’t mean literally, but you may have within you words, or actions that could bring someone real healing and a sign of hope and comfort But we choose to keep that perfume to ourselves, maybe because we are afraid to make a fool of ourselves or we are unsure how our gesture may be received. May we have Mary’s love and courage, her ability to do something, even if it makes us stand out in the crowd and look foolish and people don’t understand why we are doing it. Let us be people of EXTRAVAGANT LOVE.

Sam Nicholson
Area Dean & Team Vicar
(Pan Wigan)