I was once told, “If you want to find God, start looking around for the love.”
So, in this story of Mary, Jesus, and Judas, I started looking around for the love. The love was not hard to find. All I had to do was look in Mary’s hands. Mary carried a pound of costly perfume (worth about the year’s worth of wages) and placed it on Jesus’ feet, anointing Jesus for his imminent future. It was an act of love. Mary was loving Jesus into his future, much in the same way that Jesus was loved into his future by his mother at the very start of his ministry.
Do you remember the start of Jesus’ ministry? Jesus and his mother were at a wedding and the wine ran dry. Jesus had no plans of doing anything in response to this wedding crisis, but it was his mother who saw Jesus’ potential. It was Jesus’ mother who knew what Jesus could do. It was Jesus’ mother who lovingly knew that it was his time to begin his ministry, even if Jesus did not realize it. It was Jesus’ mother who loved Jesus into his future ministry. Where was God at work? Look for the love.
Loving people into their futures is essential to life in God’s kingdom, and like bookends to the Jesus story, it happened again just before Jesus’ death and resurrection. As Jesus faced the future of his difficult ministry which included death on a cross, there was a woman present who would once again love him into his future. She would anoint him lavishly. She would anoint him with tenderness and love. She would take the perfume and anoint his feet with her hair. She would anoint Jesus for his future death and burial. She would love him into his next step in life. She would anoint and love him into his future.
I am not sure if anyone realizes just how important all of this is. Judas obviously does not understand. He complains about the attention devoted to Jesus. He complains that all of that love could have been sold to help the poor. Indeed, perfume that was worth a year’s worth of wages could have fed a great many people. As important as loving the poor is to God (and the writer of John is certainly skeptical that Judas cared about the poor in the first place), loving people into their futures is also important to God.
Love and the encouragement that it provides is what gets babies off of their knees and onto their feet. Would any of us be walking around if it were not for our parents loving us into our futures with their guiding hands?
Love and the encouragement that it provides is what gets students from being only students to becoming teachers. Teachers have all had someone who loved them into the future and said to them, “You are good enough for this.”
Love and the encouragement that it provides is what allows people to die peacefully as their children say, “We love you, and it is OK to go home to God. We will be fine. You have permission to die and be in the eternal love of God.”
In the ancient world, kings were anointed and the dying were anointed. Kings were anointed and loved into the difficult task of leading an entire people, and the dying were anointed and loved into the difficult task of giving up this life. In this moment in Jesus’ story, he was faced with the future of both. He would soon be riding into Jerusalem, hailed as a king, and he would soon be facing the death that the designation of king would bring. And, in all of this difficult future, Mary is there to lovingly help him to take those next steps forward. Jesus was loved into his future.
Living into our futures is not something that we do alone. God does not prefer that we be self-made men and women. God does not prefer that we need no one and go it alone. God did not make us to live and work alone. God did not make us to face problems and challenges with no one there to help. God did not make us to be gods who need no one else, including God.
We are a people who were created for each other. We are a people who were created to share love with one another. We are creatures created to display love, and so we do. We love each other into our futures.
This week my mother made her way on I-80 to western Iowa to be with my grandma who was facing her last moments. She went so that she could love my grandma into her future in the same way that she loved me from High School into college, and went with me on the long, bumpy drive to Montana (with no working shocks on my car) as I moved from single life to married life, and was present the day that I went from student of God's Word to teacher of God’s Word. We love each other into our futures, and that is what makes this life a life of grace upon grace.
We will always keep the poor with us and love them into their futures. We will not forget the poor. Loving the poor will always stay central to what living in God’s kingdom is about. But, in doing so, we will not forget to love other people into their futures also.
Loving people into their futures is essential to living in the kingdom of God. There is not a limited amount of love. There is not only so much love to go around, and if you do not get any, tough luck. You do not need to stop one act of love just because there are others who also need love. That is not how love works.
Rather, love is something that can grow and expand. It can start at a single cross and expand throughout the entire world. Jesus understands this, and so does Mary. Her small act of love will allow Jesus to face his own difficult act of love to come. Loving people into their futures is probably one of the most important acts of love you will ever experience or undertake.
Know that you are never alone. Know that God’s love is always with you to bring you from death into life. Know that you are loved into the future every step of the way.