St John 12: 1 – 11 (KJV)
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.
‘Six days’ is suggestive of the six days of creation in the book of Genesis. This story is to be understood as a new beginning; new life. The repeated mention of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, also brings the theme of new life to the fore. The spikenard, an aromatic oil, filled the room with sweet, therapeutic scent. It is in stark contrast to the stench of the dead Lazarus when he lay in the tomb. The spikenard is a symbol of new life: the house was filled with the odour. Reminiscent of the abundance and generosity of the wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, Mary gave to Jesus something of immense worth: she gave more than the cost of the oil; she gave herself. The wiping of His feet with her hair suggests spiritual intimacy like the Beloved Disciple who lay against Jesus at the Last Supper. The mystic of Innellan, the Revd Dr George Matheson (1840 – 1906), wrote of nature ‘reposing’ on the ‘breast’ of God and that we find our rest, our ‘heart aglow’, when we too lie back on the breast of God and ‘fall asleep’. On our spiritual journey, we are to move beyond doctrine, beyond our images of God and learn to sit in the Presence of God, in love.
our Eternal Lover,
let every strain and stress
for a time depart.
May our minds still,
our heartbeat slow, and
listen to Your Silence,
the rhythm of Your heart.
May the scent of heaven fill our souls;
may we love as Mary loved You, and
may the oil from You hand soften our cracked lives.