“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.”
John 12:3, taken from 1-11
In the account of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume, we see that God works in very unexpected ways, for it was unexpected that someone would use such a costly amount of perfume to wash someone’s feet. It was also unexpected that Jesus would predict His death. Furthermore, it was unexpected that Jesus would engage in an argument over dinner with one of His disciples. Yet, perhaps what’s even more unexpected is Jesus is anointed by a woman. It is typically men who anoint men—Samuel anointing Saul to become Israel’s first king—popes anointing emperors throughout western history and so on. Yet, in all the Gospel accounts, it is Mary who uses an expensive bottle of perfume to anoint Jesus.
This is a powerful reminder that God is often found in unexpected ways with, for and through unexpected people. After all, most people expected the messiah to be a powerful king, but what they got was a carpenter and itinerant rabbi. The crowds who joyously welcomed Jesus by waving palm branches and singing His praises expected Jesus to take the throne and kick out the Romans; instead, a few verses later in John’s Gospel, He is crucified by them. Even Jesus’ followers expected His crucifixion to be the end and yet, it turned out to only be the beginning.
The good news is Jesus didn’t come as the victorious conqueror in power and might. Instead, Jesus came and continues to come to us today as Emmanuel—God with us—the one who doesn’t take all of our troubles away, but promises to carry us through them; the one who holds on to us when it feels like our world is falling apart; the one who enters into our suffering and pain and reminds us that we are never alone.
On this Holy Monday, may we remember that Jesus is not what anyone was expecting, but He was exactly what we needed. During this final week of Lent, I don’t know where you are or what you’re expecting. Yet, let us remember that even in the midst of our hardships and difficulties, something new and wonderful is springing forth from death. And as we continue to wait, may we move beyond what is predictable and be surprised as God, once again, does the unexpected.