Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’
It wasn’t the first time Jesus had defended his friend Mary, that day she knelt there drenched in oil. He’d spoken on her behalf once before when, as only sisters can, Martha had expressed an opinion about what Mary should be doing.
That time, Jesus had visited and Martha had been excited. Hosting Jesus and his disciples was no easy task. But if anyone could pull it off, Martha could. She had busied herself, serving all their needs. But her sister, Mary, had sat quietly at Jesus’ feet, the posture of a disciple.
Eventually, Martha’s words had rung out:
‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’
And Jesus had defended Mary, saying that she had chosen what was good and that it would not be taken from her (Luke 10:42).
With only a few words, Jesus had identified Mary’s ‘good’, and he had protected it from others who, perhaps unwittingly, would have taken it from her.
He’d sought her good. Because that’s what friends do – they want the best for each other.
Jesus had sought Mary’s good then and, sometime later, he’d done it again. As the richest of fragrances filled the house, pure nard mixed with the purest of love, someone else had questioned Mary’s choices. Why, Judas grumbled, had Mary wasted her riches at Jesus’ feet? Why had she not done something more fitting with this wealth? But, without hesitation, Jesus defended his friend once more.
‘Leave her alone,’ he said. For he knew this anointing was both a prophetic act and an offering of deepest affection. It was Mary’s best, and she was offering it to her friend and king.
She was now seeking his good. Because that’s what friends do. They want the best for each other.
As we ponder this friendship, I wonder how it illumines our own friendship with Jesus. Do we experience him seeking the very best for our lives, even jumping to our defence when others might seek to distract us from the good? How far is our friendship with him shaped by pursuit of God’s good rather than our own pleasure and comfort?
And how might we seek the good of our friends? It could be as simple as buying them a coffee to show you care, inviting them to hang out over lunchtime, or taking the time to listen to someone who’s having a really tough time.
Dr Chloe Lynch
Lecturer in Practical Theology, London School of Theology
Sometimes we think of seeking someone’s good as quite a lofty thing. What super simple thing could you choose to do to seek the good of someone on your frontline this week? Join the conversation below.