3-8 - Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Understanding John 12 is understanding that Jesus’ time (him going to the cross) is coming soon. You’ll notice how Jesus’ language changes from “My time has not yet come” to “My time has come”. Jesus’ going to the cross to die is coming soon. And what this means in this particular context is that he doesn’t have much time left with his disciples and those close to him.
What would you do if you knew that you don’t much time left with someone that you love? Wouldn’t you want to spend every day, hour, minute with that person? Mary understood something that others didn’t get. She understood the value of making the most out of being with Jesus. (Reference to Mary and Martha - Luke 10:38-42) She understood that every minute with Jesus was more valuable being anywhere else. The Psalms would say something similar: "better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere" (Psalm 84).
Jesus’ response in all of this affirmed Mary’s heart: “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” Of course, Jesus isn’t discounting our need to serve the poor and fight for social causes/injustices. But rather, Jesus reminds us that He is the reason why we serve the poor and fight for social causes. The very reason why we feel compelled to fight for the weak and serve those who are in need is because of the love of Jesus who fights for us. Our drive to fight for those we care for comes from God's heart. Our God who created us. So Jesus’ point is not to discount the need to serve the poor, but it’s actually an invitation to get closer and deeper with Jesus who greater empowers us to serve those around us.
We are reminded today that we are called to pray and go to Jesus relationally. We are reminded to deepen our relationship with Him. And I guarantee this, the more deeper and closer we get to know Jesus, the more better we will be at a serving those around us who are in need.