A PREMONITION OF WHAT IS TO COME
Many people refer to the last speech by Martin Luther King by the title, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”. It is the speech he gave on the day before his assassination, which was on April 4th 1968. In his words at the end of that speech, King seemed to speak of his coming death:
And then I got to Memphis. And some began to …talk about the threats that were out. … Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Those words were a mysterious prediction of the death of Martin Luther King, for, how could anyone have surely known of his impending assassination?
VERY EXPENSIVE PERFUME
In our Gospel reading today from John, chapter 12v1-8, we have the scene of Mary anointing of the feet of Jesus with extremely expensive perfume, costing near a year’s worth of a laborer’s pay. That anointing was a mysterious prediction of the death of Jesus. In ancient literature, you might anoint the head of someone, especially the head of a king at the time of his coronation. Nevertheless, the anointing of the feet never appears in ancient literature. It seems that the anointing of the feet is something which might have been done only be done in the case of death – the anointing of the feet of the corpse, in preparation for burial. At the moment that Mary anointed the feet of Jesus, only a week before his crucifixion, no one living could have surely known that Jesus would be crucified before one week passed. So this reading from the Gospel of John today gives us a remarkable or mysterious statement or prediction regarding Jesus’ preparation for death, both by Jesus and by Mary.
This scene also describes the way that Judas was interested in money. In our reading today, Judas was interested in the sale value of the perfume. As the gospels portray Judas, he was interested in money, even if it might cost his own soul. Within the same week to come, we will read that Judas would sell Jesus for 30 silver pieces.
At this very event is Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. That was the immediate cause of the authorities driving Jesus to his execution (in the Gospel of John, anyway).
In this reading from Luke 12 today we have Mary’s anointing of the feet of Jesus as the high point of (Mary’s) loving faith in him. In the days to come, we will read about the session of the Sanhedrin, which convicted Jesus to death. What a contrast with Mary! For, that decision and action of the Sanhedrin was the supreme expression of (the) refusal (of the political and religious leaders) to believe (in Jesus as the Son of God). So we have two very different things: We have the extraordinary love and faithful action of Mary, on the one hand; and on the other hand, we have the action of the Sanhedrin. The common thread in both is prophecy and approach of Jesus’ death.
Is there one person whom we would have anointed their feet with our tears, and to have anointed their feet with perfume so costly, that it took our income from one whole year to pay for that perfume? Do we love one person to that extent? Perhaps we actually do have someone in our hearts like that to us.
As we approach Holy Week, the challenge that is in this reading is to pray for God to give us Mary’s kind of love, in our hearts, for Jesus Christ. The kind of love that means that we would anoint his feet with our tears; to anoint his feet with the most expensive perfume we could possibly purchase. Her reason for doing this, is something that she does on behalf of us all: that Jesus’ coming death on the cross on Good Friday, and his resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday, means more to us than anything else in our entire existence.