A few days before his crucifixion, Jesus looks to his dying, for he knows what is coming (cf. John 18:4). He defends Mary, who anoints his feet with costly perfume intended for his burial. How can he know what lies ahead? He will die as he lived, challenging the religious and political authorities. Consequences come. Stopping in Bethany at the home of Lazarus was a defiant act, for the raising of Lazarus had intensified the opposition of the chief priests and the Pharisees (John 11:57). He will follow the Father's call of freedom all the way to the cross. Later in the chapter, he states plainly what is at stake: "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (John 12:32).
As Holy Week nears, we too look to the cross and reach to claim the victory won there by the love that avails despite what seems to be defeat. We sense God calling us to a new courage molded in the image of the Nazarene.
Lord Jesus, you who set your face steadfastly toward Jerusalem, mold us in your image so that we too may live for justice and truth. 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."