RHYTHM: Last Act – John 12

lectionary for youth ministry john 12The 5th Sunday in Lent: John 12:1-8

Reading: John 12:1-8

Last Act

As ever, there’s a lot going on here.

The return to Bethany is significant; Jesus has been in hiding, and before he heads to a briefly celebratory return to Jerusalem, he goes back to the place that gave those that wanted him dead real inertia. It gets overlooked a lot, but Jesus’ raising Lazarus equally signed a death warrant for Lazarus. The storyline on Lazarus goes cold after this chapter, but the same chief priests gunning for Jesus agreed that Lazarus needed to disappear, too. No Lazarus would quell the spread of rumors about Jesus’ apparent divine authority. Murdering Lazarus is a win-win.

But the focus of the story isn’t the renewed danger that Jesus’ presence brought on himself and Lazarus. What steals the show here is an act of extraordinary selflessness. In a servant-like act that foreshadows Jesus washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, Mary uses a perfume worth a year’s wages to anoint Jesus’ feet and wipes them clean with her hair. The aroma had to be nearly suffocating. Judas, vilified here once again by the Gospel writers, points to the value of the perfume and laments that it could have been sold and provision made for the poor.

I’ve heard Jesus’ response mangled from a pulpit more than once to downplay the need to care for the poor (they’ll always be here no matter how hard we try = no need to try, for example). But what Jesus is after is the sacredness of the moment. Have you ever pulled out the “good dishes” for an ordinary meal? Dressed up extra nice to spend time with someone just because? Jesus indicates that she was saving it for a special occasion involving Jesus; why not do it while he’s still with them?

For reflection:

How do you commemorate a special occasion?

Beyond sitting with the same stories year after year, do you have a personal way that you offer honor to Jesus?


RHYTHM is a daily lectionary devotion series in development by Youthworker Circuit. YWC members also receive weekly curriculum sessions for Sunday’s readings. To subscribe to Youthworker Movement, click here. If you’re new to us, you might like to know more about RHYTHM. You’re also welcome to check out more of our devotions, or come visit us on Facebook!