At church this morning, the pastor preached about the story in John 12:1-8 about Mary anointing Jesus for burial.
John 12:1-8, Mary (the sister of Martha, not Jesus' mother) anoints
Jesus' feet with nard while he is having dinner with her brother Lazarus
and others. Jesus' disciple Judas expresses fake outrage that the
perfume was not sold and the money given to the poor, for the perfume
was worth a year's wages. Jesus tells Judas to leave Mary alone, for
she was preparing his body for burial.
The pastor said that Jesus,
at this point at least, realized that what he was doing in his ministry
would lead to his death. The pastor asked when exactly it dawned on
Jesus that he would die: did he know when he was a child? The pastor
had his doubts about that. He thought that it dawned on Jesus later.
Mary knew that Jesus would soon die. Maybe Jesus shared that with
her. In any case, she cared enough about Jesus to minister to him when
he was about to die. And the smell of nard would be on Jesus when he
was dying on the cross. The pastor was talking about how we can be like
Mary and care for people when they are suffering.
I did an
Internet search to find where exactly in John's Gospel this story was.
It turns out that there is a parallel to this story, in Matthew
26:6-13. There, Jesus is having dinner at the house of Simon the
leper. The woman is not named, and she pours the perfume on Jesus'
head; the story here does not say that she poured it on his feet. The
disciples in general, not just Judas, express outrage that the perfume
was not sold and the money given to the poor.
There is also a
parallel in Mark 14:3-9. The Mark story is more like Matthew's version
than the story in John. There is a commonality between Mark and John,
however: both point out that the perfume is worth a year's wages.
Unlike in Matthew and John, Mark is not very specific about who
criticized the woman for her deed: Mark just says that some of those
present at the meal were criticizing her. In one part of the story,
Mark also spells things out more than Matthew and John: Mark has Jesus
saying that the poor are with you always, then explaining that people
can help them whenever they want. Matthew and John say that the poor
are with you always, without explaining the point of that.
these reconcilable? Maybe. John does not say that the meal took place
at the home of Simon the leper, but John does not say where exactly the
meal took place. One would think that John places it at the home of
Lazarus, since Martha is serving it; that may be likely, but it is not
necessarily the case.
Some may think that these are different
versions of the same event. Maybe some fundamentalists would see the
events as so different that they would posit them as two separate
events. Some liberal scholars may argue that ideology is behind some of
the differences in detail: John wants to make Judas the one who was
critical of Jesus.
Maybe something like this happened in history.
It is a beautiful story, though, about a woman who cared enough about
Jesus to honor and to comfort him when he was about to die.
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