mary washes jesus feetRead: John 12:1-11

I love this story…

I am deeply moved by the way that Jesus treats this woman and what that teaches us about who He is and how she loves Him.

“I see Him, my Lord, reclining at the end of the long table.  How will I get to Him without causing a stir?

I know this break the rules of the Law, but I am compelled to do this, I love Him so.  Jesus has given meaning to my life. He is my hope and I know He is My savior and Lord.  I watched Him raise my brother from the dead… surely if He had the courage to do that in the face of great opposition, I can do this…

One step at a time, hugging the wall… I silently make my way into the room. Maybe the noise and rousing discussion will cover my steps…

They are discussing Jesus’ actions and words and how they seem to rile up the Pharisees.  Surely Jesus knows this, but He doesn’t turn from His path…

Neither will I.

How will I go on once He is gone?  No one has ever treated me with such dignity, and respect, valued my desire to learn.  Lazarus is a good brother, he tries… but Jesus is just different with me… with all of the women.  He doesn’t treat us inferior, but accepts us and wants us to be His followers too. 

I can’t believe that He will die soon.  That is why I MUST do this… no matter what they think or say… no matter what happens.

No one has seen me… My tears fall on Jesus feet as I crouch beside them… I cannot stop them from falling.

I weep silently.

He knows I am here… I can tell He is accepting of my offering.  He hasn’t turned to look at me to expose my presence, but He is relaxed as my tears wash His feet and I dry them with my hair.   

He didn’t pull away, or react when I touched Him.

 He knows… what is in my heart… why I came.

Still, no one has noticed that I am here.  Once I break this jar of fragrant oils and anoint head, they will.  The smell of something so rich and valuable will alert them, even if they don’t see me.

My Lord is going to die… anointing Him with oil is the least I can do.

Well here goes…

Andrew sees me; he is sitting across from Jesus.  He looks in my eyes, but says nothing.  But the smell of the perfumed oil is strong and it won’t be long before someone does.

Judas speaks up first, scorn in his eyes and voice, “why are you letting her waste this money – from this valuable oil when we could have sold it given it to the poor?”  His eyes are laser focused on Jesus, accusing… demanding…

The room falls silent.   I am exposed.

Everyone waiting to hear what Jesus will say…

He doesn’t condemn me.  He sees the look in their eyes as they wonder why I am here and what Jesus will do about it.

He defends me…again.

“Leave her alone, she is anointing me for burial.”

“You will always have the poor among… you will not always have Me.”


As you reflect on this Holy Week and the passion/suffering of Christ, imagine yourself in Mary’s place.  Jesus has changed her life.  He has affirmed her desire to grow, to learn… to BE herself.  Her emotions had to be all over the map. Unsure of what the future will hold, yet strong in her faith, while facing something she doesn’t understand.

Can you relate?

  • What emotion does this stir in you…. the reality that Jesus treated omen with dignity and respect?
  • That He was willing to suffer, be misunderstood, misjudged and killed for you… for me…. for Mary?
  • Would you have her courage to act in the face of social norms that would condemn her actions? 
  • Have you ever been in a position like this?  Doing the right thing, for the right reason and risked judgment, condemnation even from those you would consider friends?

Mary was losing her Lord and Savior, but also her friend.  She had great faith mingled with incredible sorrow.  What gave her the strength to do what she did?  What gives you strength in such times?  

Michael Card’s song The Gentle Healer gives us a glimpse of what Mary may have thought and felt about Jesus.       

Digging Deeper:

Read and reflect on the other accounts of this story:

  • Matthew 26: 6-12
  • Mark 14: 1-10
  • Luke 7:36-50


Read this Commentary on John 12:1-8


Daily Lectionary Readings: 

Isiah 42:1-7; Psalm 27:1-3, 13-14; John 12:1-11


If you want to read through the New Testament during Lent (about 1/2 hour a day)

Read on Day 41:  James

One Response to “Day 41- Lenten Journey- John 12:1-11”

  1. Linda Carducci

    it is so hard to relate to the situation, despite attempts to understand the social norms of the times. Jesus was such a gentle man who, by all accounts, treated women and non-believers, acceptable and unacceptable people, with respect and compassion. Mary would have felt no fear from Jesus and this was affirmed when he rebuked Judas. She clearly understood that others would not be so tolerant.
    To live in such a time is beyond my understanding. I can only pray that if faced with such a situation I would be courageous enough to do the right thing. There is so much evidence that knowing the right thing to do and actually doing it are not the same.
    Perhaps the real story here is that Mary felt her actions would matter and we rationize non-interference with a brutal wrong to others by telling ourselves that one person’s stand won’t affect the long term. Faced with the inaction of the citizens Hitler’s followers systematically exterminated 6 million Jews in the camps and millions more in their other purges. While we praise those who helped the persecuted escape, placing their lives and the lives of their families in jeopardy, we can still justify the silence of the many to the horrors around them. I continue to wrestle with the ‘we didn’t know what was happening’ not only in the camps, but in so many other places around the world across time.
    Is the prospect of dying so fear inspiring that it becomes the reason for non-involvement? Do we delude ourselves with our own self importance by maintaining our need to be there for our families, etc.?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *