Fifth Sunday in Lent
The Sweet Fragrance
of Friendship
John 12:1-8 

Dr. William S. Epps, Senior Pastor

Sunday, April 3, 2022
1Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 3Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 4Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, 5Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. 7Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. 8For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. 
John 12:1-8 (Matthew 26:6-13)

We began the Lenten Season on the first Sunday with the temptation of Jesus which sets the stage for understanding how Jesus’ faith tradition prepared him to manage life’s temptations with words to live by. We are to realign our appetites, readjust our ambitions and reassess our allegiances. As Jesus was tempted we are tempted in our appetite, ambition and allegiance. All three inform us about our identity which in turn determines what we do and how we act.  
On the second Sunday in Lent we focused on the promise of our possibility to the fulfillment of our potential. We were made aware that too often we neglect to see what God is doing in our lives because we are focusing on what is missing in our lives. The Lord has us to get up, step out and look up to continue to trust the Lord as we fulfill the promise of our potential.
On the third Sunday we were made aware that the Lord’s mercy, like water is available and abundant, necessary for life, regulates life, is constant and found in the way you need to make of life what it has the capacity to become.  
On the fourth Sunday we have a parable of Jesus about a description of a loving father depicting the Lord as waiting patiently for us to come home. The Lord is waiting for those who left the compassionate, loving, nurturing protection of being in relationship. The Lord is waiting for those who are at home but neglect to appreciate all that is available given their proximity.
Consider how you have benefited from the first four Sundays of the
Lenten Season of the Christian Calendar Year with the responses
you have made to the presentations for the week.  
Monday, April 4, 2022
On this fifth Sunday in Lent we have an incident in the life of Jesus that depicts a person who anoints Jesus and receives a rebuke from the disciples about her action being wasteful.
Both Matthew and Mark have a similar story like this one. (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; as does Luke 7:36-40) The event is closely connected with the impending passion and death of Jesus. John has taken particular care to locate the anointing of Jesus between the raising of Lazarus and the death of Jesus. 
The story begins with the note that this episode occurred “six days before the Passover” (v.1). People are speculating as to whether Jesus will dare to go to Jerusalem for the festival because the officials have arranged to arrest Jesus if he
in fact comes for the Passover. 
This event takes place in “Bethany in the home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead” (v. 1). The passage again refers to Lazarus and to the presence and activity of Mary and Martha. John names the three individuals whose presence is significant. The raising of Lazarus is a pivotal event in John’s Gospel. It prompts belief on the part of some (11:45) “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.” But it also prompts bitter contempt and consternation among others. “However, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.” They saw him as a threat and sought to eliminate him. (11:46-57). Strange, how a miraculous event can evoke positive and negative reactions. 
The response of Mary to the restoration of her brother’s life can be gauged by the extravagance of her act in v. 3. She “took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.” Even before Judas’ calculating remark about the value of the perfume, first-century readers would know that this large quantity of high-quality perfume was remarkably valuable. That its fragrance filled the entire house (v. 3b) further affirms its costliness and the luxuriousness of Mary’s act. 
Consider what it means to extravagantly express
our appreciation for the Lord.  
Tuesday, April 5, 2022
Judas’s response, of course, addresses the money involved. The question about the value of the ointment seems to reflect a concern about priorities. Had the perfume been sold, Judas was the one who stood to benefit from the money that would be acquired. 
Jesus’ response comes on two fronts: first, a defense of the action of Mary, and second, a rebuttal to Judas’s feigned concern for the poor.
Consider what it means that your extravagant expression of
appreciation can be considered wasteful.  
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
There are a few salient aspects of this pericope that are arresting in their relevance. 
Firstly, there is something about the sweet fragrance of friendship. Jesus, Lazarus, Mary and Martha were friends. That is clear. The bible speaks of friendship in glowing terms citing the friendships in the bible such as Abraham and Lot;
Ruth and Naomi; David and Jonathan; Job and his friends; Elijah and Elisha;
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus;
Paul, Priscilla and Aquila; Paul and Timothy. Abraham was labeled a friend of God.
2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, and James 2:23 
Remember that Jesus says to those who believe in him that they are no longer servants but friends. John 15:15 
Friendship can be defined as a long-term relationship of mutual affection and support. Friendships offer support, affection, companionship and a sense of connection with another being. Jesus goes to be with his friends in Bethany as He is preparing to go to Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus goes to be with his friends as He is going to the sacred custom of His faith tradition. Jesus and his friends had an affectionate relationship of exceptional closeness. 
Jesus defends Mary’s extravagance as being purposeful. It was the sweet smell of appreciation. She expressed her gratitude extravagantly. God knows we need more friendly love, given what we are experiencing in our world today with such contentious communication, insidious incivility and vitriolic verbiage. 
Consider what it means to appreciate the mutual affectionate
attention that accompanies friendship.  
Thursday, April 7, 2022
Mary expressed her gratitude extravagantly and without apology because of the friendship her family had with Jesus. Jesus was their friend. They enjoyed his company and he theirs. Jesus has done something extraordinary for them and Mary expressed her gratitude extravagantly. Jesus was accessible, accountable and available to them. Imagine how the Lord is accessible, accountable and available to you and your family.  
We splurge on what we appreciate. Think of how extravagant we are with so much. Be as extravagant with expressing your appreciation of the Lord as you are with expressing it for what you enjoy. You praise what you enjoy and do it unapologetically. Be extravagant expressing your appreciation for the Lord’s presence in your life. 
Secondly, Mary’s expression of love and appreciation filled the air with an attractive fragrance; an aroma with a distinctive scent. Imagine the bouquet of the aroma of the expression of love and friendship filling the air, spreading with whiffs of pleasantries and pleasantness.   
We fill the air with so much. Imagine if we filled the air with the sweet fragrance of friendship, civility, graciousness and love.   
Consider what it means to have the aroma of your fragrant expression
of appreciation fill the air with its scent. 
Friday, April 8, 2022
Thirdly, don’t be duped by a false impression of sincerity and concern which are selfishly motivated. 
Judas’ response, of course, addresses the cost involved. The question about the value of the ointment seems to reflect a concern about priorities. Had the perfume been sold, Judas was the one who stood to benefit from the money thus acquired. Judas said this was wasteful. Strange that the Lord saw it as purposeful. How often do we see wastefulness where the Lord sees purposefulness extravagantly expressed? How often do we prioritize to benefit ourselves selfishly and neglect the good will to benefit the common good for all?
Consider what it means that personal priorities may not be consistent with purposeful priorities of extravagant appreciation.  
Saturday, April 9, 2022

Cece Winans, in the lyrics to the composition “Alabaster Box,” describes the scene with striking poignancy as she relates the meaning of this scene for you and me.     
The room grew still as she made her way to Jesus
She stumbles through the tears that made her blind
She felt such pain, some spoke in anger, heard folks whisper
There's no place here for her kind
Still on she came through the shame that flushed her face
Until at last, she knelt before his feet
And though she spoke no words
Everything she said was heard
As she poured her love for the Master
From her box of alabaster
I can't forget the way life used to be,
I was a prisoner to the sin that had me bound
And I spent my days poured my life
without measure into a little treasure box
I'd thought I'd found
Until the day when Jesus came to me and healed my soul
with the wonder of His touch
So now I'm giving back to Him all the praise
He's worthy of I've been forgiven
And that's why I love Him so much
And I've come to pour my praise on Him
like oil from Mary's alabaster box
Don't be angry if I wash his
feet with my tears and I dry them with my hair
You weren't there the night He found me
You did not feel what I felt when he wrapped his love all around me and
You don't know the cost of the oil in my alabaster box
Lyrics to "I am a friend of God"
Who am I that You are mindful of me? / That You hear me when I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me? / How you Love me
It's Amazing / Who am I that You are mindful of me?
That You hear me when I call / Is it true that You are thinking of me?
How you Love me / It's Amazing / I am a friend of God / I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God / He calls me friend
Who am I that You are mindful of me? / That You hear me when I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me? / How you Love me
It's Amazing, so amazing, it's amazing
I am a friend of God / I am a friend of God / I am a friend of God
He calls me friend / God Almighty / Lord of Glory
You have called me friend / I am a friend of God / I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God / He calls me friend.

Consider what it means to be extravagant with appreciation about being in relationship with God and expressing appreciation for that friendship.  

Alabaster Box
Cece Winans

2412 Griffith Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90011 
Phone: (213) 748-0318