As I think about my understanding of my one’s spiritual journey, the words “and it was good” comes to mind. These words are no stranger to us who are called to this Christian faith. These words are right there in the very beginning of our Bible’s creation narrative in Genesis chapter 1 where the writers sought to walk us through how we, the created, came into being. It tells of how God called forth light and after God saw the light created acknowledged that it was good. And then God called forth the heavens, sky, land, and sea and again looked back and saw that it was good. God did not stop there but continued to create grass and trees, sun and moon, birds and fishes, cows and sheep, and finally us, humanity, and God again saw that it was good. As God created and changed the universe I suspect if someone is a biblical literalist this would have been quite an upheaval with mountains ranges going up, great tsunamis as massive bodies of water gathering together, beautiful trees coming up from the earth and new creatures awakening to the newness of being trying to get their bearing. Yet, in all of this God kept looking back at what God had done and saying, “it was good.” Nowhere did it read “it was orderly” or it was “meticulously planned”, or “it was pleasant.” Yet, it was good, with each part of the creation being foundational for and working toward the next thing. Each event and phase of creation “God saw that it was good” was an expression of accomplishment for the last thing and of hope for the next phase of and ever evolving process. So too is this week’s scripture reading. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem where he will live out his final days as he faces arrest, trial, prosecution and sure death. In the middle of this he stops in Bethany at the home of Lazarus, the one who was dead.
The miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead was still a hot topic in the surrounding areas and the authorities were seeking for ways to destroy him: The pharisees were accusing him of communing with sinners, the scribes were accusing him of working on the sabbath and the priests were worried about his increasing popularity as he criticized their office.
After getting to Bethany and sitting for dinner, Lazarus’ sister Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume Nard. Judas complains that she was using this expensive perfume on Jesus when the money could be used for the poor. Mary pays Judas no attention but continues to use the Nard, a perfume many saved for years to afford so they may have it anoint their body when they die so the body would not smell. So, this time of anointing of Christ is set between the time of Lazarus being raised from the dead and Jesus being prepared for death. It is the in between time: A time when Mary step forward and gives her best to Jesus and is reprimanded for it. When we give our best to Christ we are often criticized by those who cannot bring themselves to see that our faithful walk with God is more than perfunctory, it is a holy covenant that calls us to give our best.
Mary’s action was unusual. Anointing a man that was not a family member was inappropriate, showing her hair was inappropriate, and wiping the excess oil away with her hair was quite sensual. She must have caused quite a stir. Yet, Jesus did not chide Mary for breaking cultural taboos, Jesus said “leave her alone.” He understood the incongruity and hypocrisy of Judas saying the money could be given to the poor, even though the monies in the coffers were there but not given to the poor. This kafuffle was leading up to next Sunday, Palm Sunday with even more chaos in Holy Week.
However out of the messiness, and human frailty and failings Jesus encounters starting with Mary’s inappropriate anointing of his feet we know will come the story of salvation. Out of the chaos and tears and mourning God will be able to look back and say “I was Good”