Not even a fortnight before Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem, we find him in the little town of Bethany having dinner at the home of Simon the leper.
Jesus visited Bethany many times. He must have felt at home there, loved it there. Jesus’ good friends lived in Bethany: the little family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, I think of them fondly, they remind me of my birth family – Suzanne, Steph and Rob. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in Bethany, stayed every night there the week before his trial, and ascended into heaven from there. Truly, holy ground.
Mary of Bethany came into the dinner as Jesus was reclining at the table with his disciples. She had been sitting at Jesus’ feet for months, listening. It seems she alone knew Jesus was going to die. He had said it outright, but nobody heard. But she heard and knew. Because he was facing death, she wanted to give him a gift of love, a gift of deep appreciation, a sacrifice that cost her the most expensive thing she owned.
So Mary entered a room full of men and brought with her a jar of pure nard, costly perfumed oil from India. It is believed she was saving the nard for her dowry. It was worth a year’s wages.
She knelt down at Jesus’ feet and let down her hair. She then broke open the jar and poured the oil out, wiping his feet using her hair as a towel. The room filled with the heady scent.
The disciples were stunned and shocked. Mary was on her knees offering her love gift to Jesus when the murmurings started. Murmurings that the nard could have been used for the poor, that her action was outlandish, offensive. For Mary it could have been a reputation-ruining moment had not Jesus commended her. He said:
She has done a noble thing for me.
As we contemplate these days of Lent, as we ask God to prepare our hearts for the cross and beyond, I believe there might be a noble thing set right in front of each of us. Something to do for Jesus that will indeed be a love gift, a sacrifice. It will take courage and bravery. Something that even though we desire to do it, it will be hard. Something that we will know it is our noble moment the minute it presents itself.
Will we be ready? Will we be able? I’m not sure about me. I know this: if it blindsides me, I’ll likely back away. In order to have a hope of doing what God might want me to do, I have to pray now and be ready.
Question: Will you pray now to say yes then?
Prayer: God, allow me the insight to see your moments when they are right in front of me. Give me the bravery and courage to do or say whatever it is. Let me be true to you and you alone. Amen.
The Story of Mary of Bethany: Mark 14: 3-9; John 12: 2-8