April 9

Read: John 12:1-8

Here’s the scene: Jesus is having dinner with good friends. Martha is, of course, serving. Lazarus, who had recently spent four days stone cold dead in a tomb, is at the table. And Mary, who with Martha had bitterly wept over Lazarus’ death until Jesus took action, gets out the expensive nard perfume and anoints Jesus’ feet, and then dries them with her hair.

Judas Iscariot makes an ethically practical complaint: that stuff could have been sold to help the poor – what are you thinking! I can understand that complaint.

Have you ever been at an awesome majestic cathedral, one that took decades or centuries and who-knows-how-much wealth to construct, all for God’s glory? And there on the steps leading into the cathedral are the elderly women in rags begging. What’s wrong with this picture?
What are our priorities? Extravagant worship? Or the compassionate dedication of our resources for the needy?

It’s not properly an either-or choice, though. Mary and Martha had lost their brother Lazarus. Dead. Four days dead. And Jesus raised Lazarus and gave Lazarus and Mary and Martha the impossible. How could Martha not make this the best celebratory meal ever? And how could Mary not worship Jesus, not bless him with the best she had to offer? How could she not?

We have our own personal experiences of new life in Christ. How can we not say “thank you” with the best we have to offer? Yet Jesus reminds us, quoting from Deuteronomy, the poor are always with us. His hearers knew the next line: we are to be open-handed. It’s not simply either one or the other. It’s both. So, what’s the best I have to offer?

Jesus, help us to give you the best we have to offer and to honor the gifts of others. Amen.

-Tom Worrell

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