A fly in the ointment

John 12:1-8

“A fly in the ointment”

It’s the time of the Passover and Jesus knowing he is a marked man by the Jewish authorities, shows courage beyond belief and has walked into the lion’s den and gone to Jerusalem knowing the fate that awaits him. But this night, whether maybe yet again finding there’s no room in the Inn or just wishing to catch up with his great friends, he is sharing a meal in the home of Martha and Mary, and oh to be a fly on the wall witnessing such a surreal gathering of people.

Martha as usual is busy working and serving others with the meal preparations. Lazarus, who mind you has only been recently raised from the dead, is present. But the “staring” roles other than Jesus centre on Mary and Judas who seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum in their dealings with Jesus.

Mary it would seem, in her love for Jesus has thrown human convention of thought or society standards out the window. Firstly the ointment she applies to Jesus feet is not of the “black and gold variety” because it was worth in today’s standards a full year’s wages, and if we go by the bureau of statistics, this ointment she is plashing about is worth about 70,000 Australian dollars. Never mind you that in her act of wiping Jesus feet with her hair she is not just showing her humility and love, she has smashed any thoughts of her inhibitions as no respectable women would ever appear publically with their hair unbound as it was considered immoral.

Then at the other end of the spectrum is Judas who having been given the job of “treasurer” by Jesus says what would seem logical, to sell the precious ointment and use the proceeds to feed the poor and if we were there and unaware of the truth that he actually wanted to take some of the proceeds for himself, this would seem a reasonable and sensible suggestion. While this is going on Martha and Lazarus are in the back ground and as the family fortune one way or another is about to leave the building, seem quite content.

While for us to hear of the love and generosity of Mary, Martha and Lazarus is humbling, it’s also if we are honest unfathomable, because if we could truly put ourselves in that household, I’m not sure we could guarantee to be a Martha, Mary or Lazarus any more than we could guarantee not to be calculating and self-considering like Judas.

Yet right amongst this. Amongst Mary’s almost unparalleled throwing of “caution to the wind” in her love for Jesus, Martha’s dedicated work and support for all those present, Lazarus chatting with and entertaining his guest and saviour at the table and Judas, the one given the trust of and being in charge of the money yet who is pilfering of the proceeds and who will soon go one step further and give up Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. There in the centre of this condensed overview of society sits Jesus who will shortly not throw caution to the wind and hope on a favourable outcome, but will throw himself to his accusers in the sure knowledge that their response to him will be unjust, spiteful, cruel and terminal.

He walks towards them, and towards his cruel death in his love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. And he walks towards them and towards his cruel death in his love for the Judas’ and his love for those plotting against him. A man who after having experienced the love of Mary and the hatred of the authorities will ask his Father, ask the one with limitless power “To forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

Last week I watched a movie about a father and a son who could not see eye to eye. The father a respected doctor, and his son who dropped out of school and travelled the world as a back packer. The father who saw his son’s free-wheeling ways as irresponsible and his son who saw his father as structured and without spontaneity. One’s mantra was “this is the life I chose” and the others that “you don’t choose a life, you live a life”. It was an enjoyable movie and as I watched the final scene showing the father free and in full back-packer regalia walking through a busy market place in some far off Eastern country it indeed did provoke romantic thoughts of doing something similar to feel that sense of freedom within our world.

Ironically the very next day I read in the paper an article written by a world traveller that after he talked of the wonderful adventures he had had as a full time traveller, finished with the warning that if you are considering such escapades, don’t do it thinking it will bring you freedom from your issues in life because they will still be with you, only just in another part of the world.

Whether we chose to be where we are in our lives at this moment or just seem to have fallen here is not the point. The point is that because Jesus has chosen you, you can choose to live a life irrespective of where that may be. Whether with the open love of Mary or the hidden sin of Judas, when life is seen through the grace bestowed by God the Father to us through faith in Christ alone you are free “to shoot for the stars” or free not to, because in Christ you are following your dreams no matter what shape they take.

You are not Mary, Martha, Lazarus or Judas. You are who you are and that is who Christ loves. Thinking of you as you are today Christ went to the cross, not for what you should or will be-but who you are today. So live life, walk in the rain in your shorts or use an umbrella it doesn’t matter as either way you do not walk alone. That the outward love of Mary we may not have, but the love of Christ to Mary we do have, and that’s what matters, and knowing that is living a life.

Two thousand years ago Jesus in his love for those who knew him and loved him he walked to the cross. Two thousand years ago Jesus in love for those who neither loved him nor knew him he walked to the cross and asked the Father to forgive them “for they know not what they do”.

Two thousand years ago Jesus walked to the cross knowing that a group of sinners will be here today needing to be forgiven. And as he sees us groping in the dark with our sins. Sees us make mistake after mistake and sees us in our “Judas” moments as we selfishly turn away from the need of others. Yet in hearing our cries for help and forgiveness and our throwing “caution to the wind” to know that he is our only chance he sees our faith like that of the precious ointment that Mary placed at his feet. That he sees us trust in nothing other than faith in him alone and risk being ridiculed by those around us, he turns to the Father and says “you know what they do, but forgive them-for you know what I have done for them”.

So should that confused fly on the wall in Mary’s house visit yours, let it be confused no longer and let it see the freedom that comes, when a man named Jesus visits.


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