Today’s passage is quite dense! Like a hurricane, cruelty swirls around the calm center of Jesus and Mary.
I think a key to this passage lies in the prior chapter of John. There, Jesus hears that Lazarus is ill but, oddly, delays returning to Bethany, and Lazarus dies. When Jesus does arrive, Mary falls at his feet, and says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (Jn 11:21). Mary has not done anything wrong as she trusts in Jesus and knows the healing he brings. But her faith must be expanded in two ways—towards a greater trust in Jesus’ suffering with us, and towards a greater hope in his mission. Thus, she becomes one of the first to witness two of the deepest truths about Jesus: he weeps with those who mourn, and he raises the dead.
In today’s passage, we find Mary again falling at the feet of Jesus, but the raising of Lazarus has transformed her hope altogether. Now she knows the power of God; now her faith in Jesus blossoms into the hope of Jesus’ mission to all men and women. The anointing of Jesus’ feet with nard and the use of her hair show the response of a woman in total self-giving worship and love. In a special way, Mary is a prophet of Jesus’s passion as she anoints him before his entrance into Jerusalem.
As we begin Holy Week and walk with the Lord in his passion, let us pray that our faith in Jesus Christ may also be transformed into greater trust and hope.
Mike Altenberger ‘18Ph.D. candidate
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