The Scent of Hope


Today’s readings:
Morning Psalms 22; 148, Jeremiah 29:1 (2-3) 4-14, Romans 11:13-24, John 12:1–10

As Passover approached, Jesus and some of his disciples visited the home of Lazarus, the man he had raised from the dead. Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed Jesus’ feet with a pound of very expensive perfume, and dried them with her hair. Judas complained that the perfume could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor.  Jesus told him to let her be; the poor would always be with them, but he had only a short time left.

Jesus didn’t say, “I’m about to be crucified so I deserve some special treatment,” but defended Mary’s impulse to serve him. This wasn’t an impulse he indulged often. Only a few days later, he washed the feet of his disciples, despite their protests, to demonstrate servant leadership. He could have made the same point with Mary, but there was more going on.

Mary had purchased the perfume, which contained a fragrant herb called nard, for the purpose of anointing Jesus’ dead body. Perhaps she understood and accepted what was about to happen better than the disciples did.  But if it was for his corpse, why waste it on his feet?

Not long before, Jesus had instructed Mary and her sister Martha to open their brother’s tomb. Martha warned him there would be a stench, but instead Jesus called and Lazarus rose from the grave. It seems that at some point between the tomb and the visit, Mary understood what Jesus was about. If he had conquered death, what need was there to save the perfume?

Mary understood that the feeble efforts she might muster to make death more bearable – or for that matter to make life more bearable – were no longer necessary. In a very intimate manner, she showed how she understood that in Jesus there would never be the stench of corruption. Surrendering the perfume signaled that she had surrendered her own intentions to the fragrant hope found only through Jesus.

The scent of Mary’s hope filled her home. It can fill ours too. Let us deeply inhale that blessed scent as we surrender ourselves to our Savior.

Comfort: Our hope is greater than our own mortal plans; it is in Christ.

Challenge: Pray about what you have not yet surrendered.

Prayer: Merciful God, I surrender myself to Christ in all things. Amen.

Discussion: When do you feel closest to God?

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