But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone”

John 12:1-11 Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Karis deeply identified with this story. She didn’t see herself as Mary, but as the jar of perfume, broken over Jesus’ body. She believed a central part of her mission in life was to intercede for Christ’s body, and that her physical brokenness facilitated that intercession. She wrote about this several times in her journals. For example:

I am broken and poured out for others. I nurture hope because Your grace flows through my weakness… I’m not complaining, Lord. You know I’m not. I just want to know where to spill the perfume. … I heard a friend retell the story of the alabaster jar, the image that has been so precious to me of being broken and spilled out over Your body to perfume Your Church: that the waste of my life, my expensive life, might serve the Church once I am gone. And that the memory of me would somehow strengthen the Church to endure whatever persecution or death it is to face.

I was thinking about this when I received news that our dear friend Eloisa, a pillar of strength and kindness for her church, family, and community, died of Covid this morning in Cuiabá, Brazil. One more of so many beloved ones leaving shock and grief behind them.

And then I think about the context of the rest of this chapter. Mary’s anointing of Jesus for his burial and a section commenting on the unbelief of the people despite his raising of Lazarus bookend his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, a story we remembered yesterday. But Palm Sunday is also Passion Sunday, thrusting us into this week of betrayal and suffering and death.

Jesus warns, “My light will shine for you just a little longer … Put your trust in the light while there is still time” (v. 35-36). While we wave palms in joyful hosannas, our praise is tempered by knowing what has already been done and said—“Let’s not just kill Jesus; let’s kill Lazarus too!” (v. 10) and by knowing what is coming next.

The time will come, though—Easter is but a preview—when there will no longer be sadness inseparable from our joy. I don’t know what it takes to prepare ourselves for that. It’s not something we ever get to experience here on earth, this so-called “vale of tears.” But it is coming. The last chapter of our story will be pure joy.

So let it rise like incense
My whole life, a fragrance
Every ounce here broken at Your feet
Every breath, an offering
My heart cries, these lungs sing over You
My worthy King of kings

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