Anointing the Feet
In John chapter 12 and 13, we find two stories that continue our theme where we meet Jesus as he encounters a person (or persons) in a very personal manner. In John 12, Jesus is once again with the family from John 11 (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus), and then in John 13, Jesus is with his twelve disciples. As we read and encounter these stories, we continue to see the fullness of who Jesus is and how he stands in contrast and opposition to the ways of the world.
Take a moment and read these two passages before continuing on:
Having read these two, related passages, three observations seem of great importance. First, these two stories are deeply related. They should be read in connection with one another. In the first story, Mary anoints Jesus feet with perfume. She uses this as a moment to honor Jesus, and unknown to her as she acts but known to Jesus, she is preparing him for his burial in advance. In the second story, Jesus takes it upon himself to wash his disciples’ feet. He is preparing them for the work that is ahead of them, and directly tells them that as he has washed their feet, so too ought they to wash one another’s feet. In washing, they cleanse and purify themselves, and prepare one another for the work that is to be done in the presence of God. Mary and Jesus both are preparing those whose feet they wash for the work that is ahead of them.
Second, the story in John chapter 12 reminds us and illustrates for us that to invest in Jesus is always a good investment. To spend time, energy, resources, and abilities in the worship or adoration of Jesus is well spent. It is a “pleasing aroma.” Nothing, not even service to the poor, is more worthwhile (and of great importance too is the knowledge that the love of Jesus will naturally lead us into service to the poor).
And third, we see in the story in John 13 the epitome of Jesus’ statement that to become great in the kingdom of heaven, one must become the servant of all. Jesus, the Rabbi, Teacher, and Lord of this group gets down on his hands and knees to become the servant of his disciples. In the kingdom of heaven, there is no lording power or influence, status or wealth over another. There is simply the desire to serve, played out in loving ways. The only competition that we have with one another is to ensure that we are serving each other as much or more than we ourselves are being served.
These two stories, taken together, help us to see clearly that Jesus is preparing for his work on the cross, and that we in turn are being prepared for the work that God has set before each one of us; that to worship our God that we meet and see most clearly in the person of Jesus is of incalculable worth; and that we are called to become servants of all in the name of Jesus.
May we follow the example of Jesus and prepare our minds, hearts, and bodies for a lifetime of service, love, and compassion for all.