Here we are six days before the Passover at the home of Lazarus. Six days before Jesus is made the Passover Lamb – sacrificed and bled for the sins of the world. It's a dinner scene.
Martha is there and her sister Mary, perhaps Mary Magdalene, who used to run around with too many men in town. Lazarus is there whom Jesus has earlier raised from the dead. The disciples are there. They recline with Jesus at the table. He teaches, they listen. For faith cometh by hearing.
Mary does something strange. It’s not just strange to us. It’s strange to the disciples too. It’s a party faux pas of the worst sort – and an awkward one. She takes a pound of perfume and anoints Jesus feet for burial. She delicately and affectionately dries his feet with her hair. This is not any perfume – it’s worth 300 denarii meaning – that it was easily an entire years salary.
Judas the betrayer of Jesus got all bothered about this and thought it was a waste of resources. St. John the evangelist tells us that Judas was not interested in the money going to the poor, he just wanted to line his pockets. Judas was the comptroller, he was the stewardship committee, he was the money guy, and of course that was his downfall.
Mary loves Jesus. And Judas loves himself. If you are wondering whether you are Mary or Judas. You are both. Christians are at the same time saint and sinner.
Simultaneously you are spirit filled Mary and demon possessed Judas. This is what Martin Luther is getting at in the Small Catechism on baptism when he writes that the old man must be daily beaten down and die with all evil desires and that a new man must arise daily before God. The old adam must die and the new man must live. The Judas in you must die and the Mary in you must arise and worship God with everything that you have.
Mary is a saint of God and one to be emulated. The thought that pouring a years salary on Jesus feet was somehow excessive did not cross her mind. She longed to anoint and kiss His feet. We are too nervous to pray in public, and we think bowing at the altar is overdoing it – perhaps too catholic and showy maybe.
Repent and stop carefully calculating like Judas. When it comes to worship of God you can’t overdo it. Jesus loves a prostitute like Mary – and just and more amazingly he loves you. God befriends sinners and eats with them. He doesn’t just forgive sinners but he loves them.
Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus feet for burial. She was the first to the tomb on Easter morning. That’s why Mary gets it and the disciples don’t. After riding into Jerusalem on a donkey Jesus tells his disciples that the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. He’s speaking about his death – his glory is there.
The glorified Christ is the crucified Christ. God wants you to see his glory there and that is why Mary anoints his body for death with her tears and her hair. It’s no secret that there will be twice as many people at my congregation on Easter Sunday. Most folks will stay home on Good Friday.
And with all due respect, they don’t get it. But that’s ok Jesus loves them anyways. It took the disciples a while to figure it out and perhaps someday they will do. God is patient.
Jesus dies for unbelieving disciples. He dies for prostitutes. He dies for Judas. The only difference with us and them is that we are a slightly better at concealing our crimes. So God be praised he dies for us. You are free from scandal. And free from sin.
You have a reason to be glad. If you want to worship like Mary and kiss the feet of God then come to His supper – recline at his table. Receive his body and blood – for this is the highest form of worship. Like Mary he adores you and remembers you.
Come recline at the table with St. Mary and Martha, with Lazarus, and with all the angels. The tomb is empty. And you too are already raised from the dead.