Photo by Ruy Reis on Unsplash

John 12:1–6 ‘“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It  was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared  about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money  bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.’ (vv5–6) 

Mary of Bethany approached Jesus and anointed His feet with expensive nard, an aromatic ointment with a musky scent and floral top notes. Washing a guest’s feet from the dirt of the dusty streets was a sign of welcome. However, the Torah cautioned against being wasteful, which is what Mary is accused of here. In reality, she was symbolically anointing Jesus for His burial. This is the same woman commended by Jesus for taking time to contemplate, whilst her sister  Martha, still working hard, was caring for Jesus’ practical needs (Luke  10:38–42). Her devotion was welcomed and commended by Jesus on both occasions. 

Prayerful consideration of Jesus is our primary purpose. Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, rebukes Mary with his self-righteous claim that her actions were wasteful and at the cost of the poor. However, Jesus’  treasurer was only able to see the perfume’s price, not the value of  Mary’s extravagant act of worship. Judas used the ‘poor’ for his own convenience. No doubt he distributed some crumbs of comfort to them,  yet he was more interested in the quality of life he might create for himself through abusing their vulnerability for his own material benefit.  

There’s always a danger that even the good we propose and intend will in fact only go to serve our own needs. In contemplating Christ, we offer ourselves entirely to God’s purpose on earth. Only in contemplating Jesus can we understand the depth of His love and effectively realise our vocation. Good ideas aren’t guaranteed to be God’s ideas.  

SCRIPTURE TO CONSIDER: Lev. 8:1–13; Ps. 133; Matt. 26:6–13; Luke 7:36–50. 

AN ACTION TO TAKE: There is always a danger that serving others can be more for our own gratification than for their long-term benefit. This is never God’s approach.

A PRAYER TO MAKE: ‘Lord, help me to be content to remain anonymous so that might deeds of kindness remain unknown to everyone but you. Amen.’

Micha Jazz is Director of Resources at Waverley Abbey, UK.