When a group of us met recently and looked at John 12, we had to stop for a moment and figure out where we were (or when), because one of the guests at the table is Lazarus. So, we wanted to know, is this the pre-resurrected Lazarus, or the raised from the dead one? Does he still stink from the tomb? Or does he not know yet, as we do, that he’s a marked man?
It turns out that it was the post-resurrection Lazarus, which makes it all the more interesting that Mary is pouring out her life savings on Jesus’ feet. Yes, she’s probably that much more grateful, since Jesus raised her brother from the dead. But if Jesus is right that she’s anointing him for burial, she sure picked a strange occasion to remind everyone that Jesus is headed for the grave next.
“She has saved this for my burial,” Jesus says.
But why is she doing it NOW?
That’s a question that comes up more than once in John. With a different Mary, his mother, Jesus has an argument in Cana, at the very beginning of the gospel. She suggests that he could help make the wedding feast last a bit longer. He responds that it is not yet his "hour." But then moments later, as everyone is enjoying this remarkable vintage that’s suddenly coming from the water jars, people say to the host, why did you save up all this good wine for the end?? “Why now?”
Martha weren’t too happy with Jesus’ timing just a few days ago, when he lollygagged on his way to
Jesus is always messing with people’s sense of the appropriate time for things. In fact, many people say that’s what made him so offensive to his peers. He was getting ahead of himself, you could say. Or getting ahead of reality, anyway.
Pharisees said, yes the
But Jesus shows up and says the
So maybe it’s no wonder that he responds to Mary the way he does. She’s supposed to have this stuff saved for his burial and she can’t even wait a week. Everyone else is upset that she’s making a resurrection party smell a bit like a tomb! Not to mention the fact that any logical person would say first we have to feed the poor, then we worry about – well really what is Mary doing here?
I think Mary has been listening. She’s noticed that he turns weeping into dancing. She’s noticed that
he has been talking about
Why break open the nard now? Maybe because she knows that Jesus never schedules extravagant love as if it has to be on a calendar. And he never checks his accounting books before he starts feeding people. And maybe, just maybe, she knows that if she waits until the "appropriate" time to cover his broken body in burial ointment, she’ll never get her chance at all.
Yes, he will die at the “appropriate” time—Passover. But already Mary knows that Jesus can turn even a burial into a resurrection feast.