The Passover was near…THE Passover…the one Jesus knew would be His last. It was a week away and already people from all over were streaming into Jerusalem. Many wished to arrive early to go through ceremonial cleansing so that they would be purified for the feast.
The chief priests and the Pharisees already had their thugs working the crowds.
“Hey! Any a’ you seen that teacher, Jesus of Nazareth?” a rough-looking fellow demanded threateningly to a group of Jews exiting one of the mikvahs used for ritual immersion.
When the happy worshipers turned to look at the man, they saw that he led a squad of several brutes carrying clubs.
“Uh…n-no,” one of the Jews answered timidly. “None of us have seen him.”
“Well, if you do,” the rough spokesman growled, “you better get word to the chief priests quick! They’ve issued orders to arrest him an’ anyone who supports him! YOU GOT THAT?”
After the company of bullies left, one of the Jews said to the others, “The Teacher’s in real trouble if He shows up this year.”
“Do you think He will?” another asked.
“Not if He knows what’s good for Him.”
Actually, Jesus wasn’t in Jerusalem right then. He and His followers were on their way back to Bethany, but this time it wasn’t primarily to visit Lazarus and his sisters. They had received a message from Martha informing them that Simon, the former leper, had invited Jesus and His disciples to a feast at his house. It was to be a huge party. He had invited the whole village, and it was intended to publicly thank Jesus for healing him.
When Jesus arrived, everything was ready. Simon and his father had spared no expense for the supper. He had even borrowed lanterns to hang in the trees. When the people in Bethany heard what Simon and his father were doing, many volunteered to bring food and drink. Mary had come early to help prepare for the guests, and Martha had volunteered to serve.
Jesus and the others arrived late in the afternoon. Even though the party was not supposed to begin until sunset, as soon as the people of Bethany saw the Teacher walk into town, they poured into the street to welcome Him and to escort Him to Simon’s.
The former leper was so excited to see Jesus again that, even though the preparations were not complete, he welcomed the Teacher and everyone else into his home and started the feast early.
The first thing Simon did was to introduce the Teacher to his invalid father. The compassionate and loyal son had brought his father’s bed into the large room and propped him up with comfortable pillows so that he could enjoy the feast as well.
“Thank you, Lord!” the old man said weakly when he met Jesus. “Thank you for what You have done for us! This feast is our humble way of expressing our gratitude to You.”
“Then why don’t you join us?” Jesus said with a smile. Reaching down, He gripped the old man’s hand.
Simon’s father’s eyes grew wide as he felt strength surge through his body. “Lord!” he cried with surprise. Then he began to laugh…a strong, full laugh. “I believe I shall join the feast!” Rising confidently to his feet, he turned to his son, who rushed into his arms.
Just then the old man saw Lazarus walk in. “Lazarus, my good neighbor, I heard you had died.”
“I was dead,” Lazarus laughed. “I heard you were sick.”
“Ha, ha, ha! I was sick.”
Jesus was given the place of honor, with Lazarus on one side and Simon’s father on the other, while Simon busied himself with making sure all of his guests had plenty to eat and drink.
“Will you go to the Passover, Lord?” Lazarus asked. “You know Your enemies are waiting for You.”
“I must,” Jesus returned. “My time has almost come. The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the chief priests and the scribes and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”
Mary, who was standing near to the Lord, heard once again the prophecy Jesus had spoken before in her presence, and it always broke her heart. She wished that it were not true, but the Lord’s words were always true. With a firm resolve she hurried out from the party and ran to her home. She opened a chest at the foot of her bed and dug down to the bottom, pulling out a beautiful alabaster box that was sealed. With tears streaming down her face, she ran back to Simon’s house. She pushed through the celebrants until she was beside her Master again. Breaking the sealed end of the box, she began to pour the strongly scented ointment onto Jesus’s head. The wonderful fragrance immediately filled the room, and everyone turned to find its source.
“What is that?” Rock asked Martha, serving next to him.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into that girl!” Martha exclaimed. “Our parents gave each of us an alabaster box of pure spikenard.”
“WHAT?” Judas, who was sitting close enough to hear, gasped. “YOU MEAN THAT’S PURE NARD?”
“It was a precious gift from our parents,” Martha said again. “It was meant to be used for our burials, but my sister has apparently decided to use hers on the Teacher.”
“THAT’S CRAZY!” Judas choked jumping to his feet as he watched the girl pour the expensive perfume onto the Lord’s head.
Jesus turned to look at the crying young woman, which caused her to stop. Since her Lord was now facing her, she knelt down and began to pour the rest onto Jesus’s feet. There was so much that it ran onto the floor. Mary quickly undid her long hair and began to wipe up the extra ointment and rub it back onto the Teacher.
Jesus reached down and put His hand on Mary’s head. The sorrowful woman looked up until her weeping eyes met His. Jesus smiled at her and mouthed, “Thank you.”
“WHAT A WASTE!” Judas cried out. “THAT WAS NARD! PURE NARD!” Judas dropped his head in his hands, trying to grasp the value of the ointment that was just ‘wasted.’ “YOU DON’T JUST POUR OUT SOMETHING THIS VALUABLE! IT…IT…IT COULD HAVE BEEN SOLD FOR AT LEAST THREE HUNDRED PIECES OF SILVER…” Suddenly Judas felt the eyes of everyone in the room looking at him, so he quickly added, “and the money given to the poor.”
“Leave her alone!” Jesus said sternly to his greedy disciple. “She has done something beautiful to me! Don’t spoil it! You will always have the poor, but you will not always have Me.”
Looking back at the weeping young woman, Jesus announced, “She has done what she could. She has anointed my body for burial, and I thank her.
“You think this was a waste, but I’m telling you the truth—the absolute truth, wherever My story is told, what she has done for Me will also be told in memory of her, because even though it broke her heart, she believed My words and acted on what she believed. That is what real faith is all about.”
Later, as the party wound down, no one noticed the hate-filled glares that Judas shot at Jesus.
By Alan W, Harris
(Inspired by John 11:55 – 12:11)