Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11
You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Likewise, you cannot have a resurrection without a death. These are pretty decent Easter themed meditations, yes? But it's not Easter yet. Not yet. We are too quick to jump to the happy ending and read the last chapter. We want everything to resolve and be assured that everyone is just fine and they all live happily ever after. What's wrong with that?
Here's what's wrong: We are not living in the last chapter. Not yet. We tend to look at the resurrection story as past event, but this event exists in the future just as much as the past. We are still trudging our way through the chapters that take us to the cross and the tomb - again and again. And we would do well to pay attention to this or we are really going to miss just how good the news is on "that great gettin' up morning."
Thank God that Mary is paying attention (John 12). She's not jumping ahead. She is taking in every chapter that leads right through to the death of Christ. She interrupts a dinner party at her brother's house. There's Lazarus sitting under the banner that says "Congratulations on Your Return From the Dead." Jesus is much appreciated for his role in the un-funeral. No one wants to think about death on an occassion like this. Still, Mary breaks open a jar of expensive "nard-scented" lotion and anoints Jesus' feet.
Okay, let's just admit that it's odd to us. You can dress it up for the religious pageant with stoic characters and heavenly lighting, but you know as well as I do that it didn't happen like that. There's probably some sort of hospitality involved here, but it still seems a bit excessive. Judas even says so. What a hypocrite! Judas is opposed to wasting funds that can be used for benevolence but he has no problem with betrayal. Yet, Judas probably isn't the only person who finds Mary's extravagance awkward. This sort of expense and display of emotion isn't appropriate for a casual dinner party. No, it ought to be reserved for something profound - like a funeral.
And there you have it. She breaks open the nard because she is paying attention. She knows that Jesus is not going to avoid the cross. We could say to her, "Save the nard, honey. He's going to be resurrected anyway." And Jesus would reply as he does to the other dinner guests, "Leave her alone."
More than a jar of perfume is going to get broken before this is all finally over. The barriers between us and God are going to get broken open. The gate that keeps us out of heaven is going to get crashed. A way to God will get opened up and Jesus himself will mediate the peace between us. But don't jump ahead to Christ the High Priest without first taking note of Christ the Sacrifice. We live with the promise of a new relationship and have a great mediator with God himself, but only "because a death has occurred that redeems us from the sin." (Heb. 9:15)