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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, April 3, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  John 12:18

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.” (NRSV)

“The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Scent has a way of lingering on, oddly, past the initial presence of whatever brought it into a space. Our nostrils acclimate, but then you shift something or turn a corner and there it is again, unexpected and out of control, moving on feather-light currents of air we cannot see.

And so does this mention of scent resist control, moving us back and forth in this story—back to Lazarus’s death and burial, forward to Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and forward again to Jesus’ own death, the spices—a hundred pounds!—in his burial cloths. And with him, at all times, friends, family, and disciples, secret and otherwise.

Woven throughout all this personal story there is the political one as well. The one leading to his betrayal. To his trial. To his death.

As I read Judas’s words, my mind was carried unexpectedly, like scent, to the thought of people wanting “things to be normal.”

To not have to see.
To not have to smell.
To not be touched by death, by violence.

Will we be the ones to betray Jesus, as we deny the suffering with which he bound himself? Will we stop up our senses, impoverish our souls, as we seek to cover, to control, to put away?

Or will we take our love and pour it out on the world, bodily, not holding back?

God of glory, teach me to love abundantly, freely. To look to the future yet live in the now, preparing my life to walk ever more closely with you. Amen.

Written by Simon Crow, Program Manager, Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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