Lots of things aren't what they seem to be here. Judas would steal what he claims for the poor. The week that begins with a triumphal entry ends on a cross. As we join Jesus in looking to the cross, we know human evil killed him, but we also trust that the end of the story is not defeat, but victory. And then there's that strange mixture of the absence and presence of Jesus. Yes, "you do not always have me," but "remember I am with you always to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
John has Jesus speaking of how he must go away so that the Advocate will come (John 16:7). That is surely the same Spirit who at the beginning of Jesus' ministry anointed him "to bring good news to the poor" (Luke 4:18). Mary plays a role in that drama, which is coming to a climax promising a transforming power. Now, the original command to God's people for the sabbatical year calls again to us: "Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land" (Deuteronomy 15:7).
Revealing God, empower us to look beneath the surface of things to see your surprises and send us forth in your Son's power to care for the poor of the earth. Amen.
John 12:1-8 (NRSV)
1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.
3 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.
4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,
5 "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?"
6 (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.)
7 Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.
8 "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."