Tuesday, April 2
This is a story of extravagant generosity: Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead in response to the pleading of his sisters, Mary and Martha. When Jesus stopped at the home of Lazarus on his way to Jerusalem (where Jesus was to be tried and crucified), Mary anointed his feet with perfumed oil and wiped them with her hair. The perfume was so strong that it filled the whole house. Was this generosity and hospitality excessive?
According to Judas, it was. He criticized Mary for wasting money to buy perfume when that money could have been given to the poor. The perfume was extravagantly costly (the equivalent of a year’s wages according to my annotated Bible). And Jesus had repeatedly taught that we are to care for the poor. But Judas was motivated by greed rather than charity, and his criticism ignored the context of Mary’s actions.
Mary’s display of generosity and gratitude is bookended in the gospel of John by two resurrections: She was responding to the resurrection of her beloved brother Lazarus, which demonstrated Jesus’ love for Lazarus and God’s love for us. Her actions also foreshadowed the most extravagant display of God’s love for us – God’s sacrifice of himself, through his son, for our salvation. Could any expression of generosity on her part or on our part be excessive in light of these extravagant gifts?
Prayer: Lord, help us to appreciate the extravagance of your generosity to us and to reflect back to others the light of that generosity. Amen.
Sara Ann Ketchum