In this series of posts, we look at the story of Mary anointing Jesus' feet with perfum in John 12:1 - 8. Something of this act of extravagant worship thrilled Jesus but at the same time had a provocative impact. Judas Iscariot, after witnessing this, went to the chief priest to plot his betrayal. So what can we discover from this extraordinary event?
1.What was it that provoked her to take this step?
The secret is hidden in the text. ‘Lazarus was sitting there.’
Lazarus was Mary’s brother. Mary had lived through watching her brother become more and more seriously ill. Jesus was their friend but He wasn’t there. ‘If only Jesus was here’ she must have thought. So they send someone to find Jesus and tell him that Lazarus is sick. They wait. Lazarus gets sicker. They wait more. Finally Lazarus dies. It’s a strange mystery that Jesus knew but did not come. They would have experienced Jesus healing first hand and heard his breath taking preaching on the ushering of the new Kingdom. Tragically, in the end death wins. In the end, life is vulnerable to the biggest crisis you face - loved ones die. It may be nice having Jesus around but death wins in the end. You can have your life enriched but you’re going to die. Death had invaded their experience of knowing Jesus.
Then of course, Jesus turns up. It had been 4 days since Lazarus had died. 4 agonizing days of knowing the finality of death. Never again would they hear their brother laugh. Never again would they feel his touch. Mary goes up to Him and says, ‘if only you had been here’. And then you have the marvelous story of Jesus going to where the body of Lazarus was laid. Roll away the stone and then Jesus shouts out, ‘Lazarus come out’. It must have been phenomenal seeing this dead man walk out.
So here they’re having a meal together celebrating their brother is alive again. Death did not win, he’s alive, he’s back, he’s with us. Often when Jesus did a remarkable miracle, he associated it with a revelation of who He was. He heals a man blind from birth and then He preaches, ‘I am the light of the world.’ He feeds 5,000 people from a few fish and loaves and then preaches, ‘I am the bread of life’. Having raised Lazarus from death, He says, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.‘ Jesus is the answer to death. He conquered death. He beat our biggest enemy. He destroyed death’s ultimate power.
This was Jesus‘ biggest miracle.
People may ask, so what is Christianity all about? Is it about doing good? Is it about going to church? Not getting in to trouble? No it’s a great message - death has been beaten. Eternal life has been ushered in.
Mary had lived through it. That’s the background - her dear brother was dead and now he’s alive again.
This post is adapted from a sermon preached at King's Church Kingston called Extravagant Worship