Fragrancing Life – A Sermon On John 12:1-11

Monday in Holy Week – John 12:1-11

Here’s my question: In what ways are you fragrancing the life of others? 

I hope you understand that I’m not talking about perfume or rubbing someone’s feet. I’m asking about love. I am talking about the kind of love that is absolutely free and will cost us everything. I’m not talking about love that is based on feelings or attraction but the kind of love that is a choice and a commitment by which we pour out on another all that we are and all that we have. I am talking about loving someone to death, and beyond. 

I’m asking you to look at how you love in light of Mary and Judas. Let them be the lenses through which you look at yourself. 

Mary loves because she loves. She anoints because she anoints. She fragrances because she fragrances. There is no why behind her love. It is gift, “grace upon grace.” There is nothing in it for her. It is unconditional, without measure or calculation. And it looks reckless and irresponsible. She’s not invested in a result or seeking a particular outcome. She’s just doing what she’s doing because that’s what she’s doing. She breaks the chains of means and ends. She’s like a rose that blossoms because it blossoms. She has no concern about a return on her investment in the same way a rose has no concern about whether we think it is beautiful or smells good. And that makes no sense to Judas or any other economist.

“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” I don’t know if Judas really was a thief or if he really did care about and want to help the poor. But I know this. He was practical, shrewd, calculating. He knows the market. He’s an investor looking for a return. He wants to turn Mary’s gift into a profit. Judas has a why for what he does. He’s aligned himself with a means and an end. He counts costs and lives by profitability. He has his limits and knows what is unprofitable. He expects a return on his investment. 

When have you been Mary and when have you been Judas? What’s your experience of the two? In what ways have they shaped or misshaped your life? 

There is a time to love and a time to calculate. We always live in the tension of those two ways. But “the only measure of love is love without measure,” (Caputo) the kind of love that fills the entire house with the fragrance of perfume.

Holy Week takes us to the boundaries of what is practical, what is reasonable, what makes sense, and then asks us to step across. That’s the way of love. That’s the way of Jesus. Yes, the perfume fades with time, but “life is eternal and love is immortal.”

Holy Week 2021
+ Palm Sunday: Working Out Our Life


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