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Read John 12:1-8

from W. Darwin Collins, Christian Church Foundation

Is it merely coincidence that this essential story is adapted by three of the Gospel writers-Mark, Luke and John? The essence in each is Jesus, a woman with perfumed oil, and an act of affectionate care. Beyond these elements the different writers add their own twist. For Mark, it’s Simon the leper’s house and an anonymous woman who anoints Jesus head. In Luke, it’s a Pharisee’s home with a known sinner who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and finishes with the oil. Here in John it is more personal. The home is that of Lazarus in Bethany, and the woman is none other than Mary, the eager student who now anoints Jesus’ feet with the perfumed oil.

With John and Mark the criticism of the women was of how the oil proceeds could have benefited the poor…an ideal we should all strive to accomplish. In Luke, it was a criticism of Jesus eating with such a horrid sinner and then forgiving her. Theologians tell us that these were precursors of the approaching death of Jesus indicating the need to anoint his lifeless body, but as with most scripture, I believe the richness of the tale is more than the obvious. Both caring for the poor and keeping the law may have been seen as the ideal, but Jesus called on them to recognize that seeking the ideal is no reason to avoid the good that is before them. With John, giving hospitality to Jesus (or anyone who is visiting) is the immediate good and does not excuse us from continuing to seek the ideal of caring for the poor. Both are expected!

Make us doers of the good, even as we seek the ideal, O God.

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