Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
The Gospel for Holy Monday shows us a gathering of friends so intimate that it might be called a family gathering amid the threatening storm clouds of Jesus’ betrayal. But it is not only Jesus who is threatened. Both Mary and Lazarus are also threatened by their association with Jesus.
Mary’s act of love for Jesus is mocked by Judas, who is a calculating figure. Mary’s love for Jesus, however, goes beyond calculation, and her act of adoration out in the open exposes her to ridicule.
Lazarus, as a living sign of Jesus’ authority, is a living challenge to those who deny Jesus’ authority. And John reports that as such, his life as well as Jesus’ life is sought after by those whose power is brought into question by Jesus’ works.
When Christians bear witness to the love and power of God in Christ, we become associated with him, for better and for worse. Those who love God may seek us out, but those who are threatened by God or who simply misunderstand him may be moved to antipathy toward us. We may be mocked behind our backs or openly. We may be threatened with censure, and in many places around the world those whose lives are touched by Jesus’ life, marked with Jesus’ cross, are threatened with death. This is especially true today in the Middle East and in the land of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.
Yet we are encouraged to love, to witness, by this: the joy of being in communion with Jesus is worth the cost. And he who received Mary’s act of love and raised Lazarus from the dead will also be with us, to protect us, to strengthen us, and to receive us.