Signpost 13th March 2016, Fifth Sunday in Lent (Passion Sunday): Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8.
Today’s Gospel lends itself effortlessly to the style of Bible study in which we place ourselves at the scene, in our imagination experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the story (the last-mentioned being particularly relevant).
With whom do we identify?
With Martha, hostess at a dinner party prepared for Jesus at a time when he was no longer walking freely amongst the Jews? A dinner party already filled with tension and made more so as she wondered what that sister of hers was up to this time.
With Lazarus? Who can imagine how Lazarus was feeling? Some of the guests were probably there out of curiosity to see this man so recently raised from the dead. His loyalties to his two so very different sisters may have been strained.
With Judas? Hitherto Judas has been the reliable, prudent disciple, looking after their small amount of money, aware (if not caring) of the needs of the very poor. He is by now bothered and bewildered by Jesus’ mission, his orderly mind shocked to witness the incomprehensible extravagance of Mary’s gift.
With the other guests, embarrassed at Mary’s actions, possibly titillated at the extraordinary sight of a woman letting down her hair in public?
We can empathise with all these people.
But Mary? Like the others at the dinner, like us maybe, a faithful disciple, but possessing that sublime quality which enables her to defy the conventions of her culture, and worship her Lord with heart, mind and soul; her actions foreshadowing his death which lies only a few days ahead. Who is so great as to identify with Mary?