In the Moment

April 03, 2022  •  1 Comment

Can you picture fragrance? Can a camera capture bouquet? Can a painter express aroma? Can a writer describe a smell so vividly that your nose begins to agree with words? 

The gospel lesson for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, John 12:1-8, opens with a celebratory feast. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus host Jesus for a meal of gratitude. Apparently, the reason for the gathering was to honor Jesus who had raised Lazarus from the dead. I can't imagine anything that would exceed the joy of this family having their brother come back to life. We know grief and sorrow. We have stood in the cemetery to remember dear friends and beloved family members. So, to have all that reversed by resurrection is startling joy. Mary performs the traditional welcome for a guest by cleaning the traveler's dusty feet. Here she goes further by using expensive nard to anoint the feet of Jesus and to wipe his feet with her hair. The passage notes that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Can you smell it? 

And Judas spoils the moment of welcome with a rude outburst. Judas was a guest in the house and complains that this perfume that Mary used on the feet of Jesus was worth a year's wages of a laborer. Was that an exaggeration? That's incredibly expensive perfume. What in the world must that fragrance smell like? And Judas insults them all by saying it was wasteful to anoint Jesus in this happy moment. Or was Judas just acting out all of his deep-seated objections to the direction of the mission of Jesus and couching it in the words of charity? I hear a message of shame that stinks up the gathering. I want to sit at that table in that fragrant room and ponder what is about to happen, caught between the joy of the host family and the foreboding of the coming betrayal by Judas. I think this scene captures much of our meditation during Lent. 


Comments

Steve Bryant(non-registered)
I love the way you picture the story. Washing Jesus' feet was what Mary would have done anyway, as was the custom, but she uses the expensive oil instead of water. Oil that may have been intended for Lazarus. And what really stinks in that moment, in contrast to the fragrance of Mary's love and gratitude, is Judas' attitude and behavior. I love that. I wish we'd read this way of seeing the story in class.
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