When we hear the Passion History in church on Wednesdays in Lent, it always starts with Jesus going to the Upper Room to celebrate the final Passover. But that’s not where the Church historically starts the reading. The old practice is to read Matthew on Palm Sunday, Mark on Holy Tuesday, Luke on Holy Wednesday, and John on Good Friday. The readings from the Synoptics all start, not with the Upper Room, but with Judas’ plot to kill Jesus and Mary anointing Him.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus had a lot to be happy about. Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. The sisters were sad Jesus didn’t come to heal him, but were overjoyed when he came out of the grave on his own power and was unwrapped good as new. They were overjoyed, but the leaders of the Jews were mad. They decided it was time to kill Jesus – and Lazarus. I think they knew Who He is, and they hated it. Satan led them to think they could kill God and win. Instead he defeated himself by setting God’s plan of salvation in motion.
So Mary rejoiced. The Lamb was going uncomplaining forth to His tomb, for them His life to offer. Lazarus was alive again, but Jesus was going to die. He was going to be buried fast, with no time to prepare His holy Body except with a few spices, a face cloth, and a body sheet. Nothing more than swaddling clothes would adorn His Body in the grave. So in faith she adorned Him and confessed He is no mere mortal, but God made flesh for our salvation.
What can we learn from this? The Gospel is adorned by our gifts. This does not mean that you add to it or make it more effective. The Gospel is God’s Word. The Holy Spirit works through it to create faith. It is living and active and effective. And it is beautiful. So we use our money to confess that. When we spend it to improve our facilities, to provide for paraments and communion vessels, flowers and candles and stained-glass windows, we’re showing the beauty of the Gospel: Christ came to bring us out of this sin-stained world to the beauties of paradise. When we spend it to provide for our missions, we show the grace of the Gospel: Christ gave Himself up for us 100%. So we rejoice to give out of our own well-being to others, for through us Christ is giving Himself to them.
Christ gives Himself to you. He gave Himself totally up for your salvation on The Cross. Now He comes to you here in His Supper. He preaches to you His salvation. He reminds you of your sins, so you will be truly sorry for them. But then He reminds you what He has done for you. He died for you to save you, to forgive you, to give you eternal life. He has not forgotten this. He remembers it. He remembers it most vividly when He gives you His Body and Blood at The Altar. Then He gives you Himself. You eat and drink His salvation. He promises to raise you from the dead to be like Him, to be the most beautiful creatures in all His creation.
So Mary anointed His feet, and you give to beautify His house as well as for missions. Thus you confess He came to rescue this world from the ugliness of sin and to remake it like it was supposed to be in the first place, no, to make it far better, far more beautiful, than the world Adam’s sin and Noah’s flood ruined.