One Good Friend
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint[a] 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 the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 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. 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Illustration of Nardostachys grandiflora, by Joseph Hooker, 1817-1911, Curtis’s botanical magazine, vol. 107 ser. 3 nr. 37
Mary sat before Jesus,
With her hair,
She washed His feet with Nard.
Mary sat before the King,
Ready to prepare,
She knew His life would be hard.
Once upon a time there was a grandmother who absolutely loved her grandson. She loved him for his loving spirit and giving heart during a hard life. His mother had to work. His father was out of the picture. It was up to his grandmother to be the primary caregiver. She knew that it would be so important for him to feel loved. She made his sandwiches just the way he liked them. She cut them in a triangle and removed the crust. She put it along with thinly sliced carrots in his mailbox. He had to have a juice box; it had to be apple flavored. That was his favorite. He loved her homemade cookies, but what he loved the most was the note his grandmother left him. There he was, in the cafeteria, eating by himself, with a big smile and reading her note. It always said the same thing. “I love you” and, “All you need is one good friend.”
Each day she picked him up she would ask, “How was your day?” He always responded the same, “It was OK.” “Did you make a friend”, she continued to ask. “No”, he said, “But I’m hopeful about tomorrow.”
Mary, in our gospel today was hopeful about tomorrow. This is not Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is not Mary Magdalene. This is about Mary, the sister to Martha and Lazarus. In the gospel we find her at the feet of Jesus, wiping his hair with nard. Nard, a most precious and exotic plant found in the remote mountains of Nepal, India, Himalayas and China, was what Mary used. It was most expensive, and it was an ancient custom to embalm a king with this costly perfume. Judas chastised her, saying it was a wasteful way to spend money. Judas had his own strategy on how to direct and spend the funds. His kingdom was a different kind.
Mary was preparing for the true king with expensive perfume. This spikenard is similar in color and variation to lavender. Their aromatic qualities pressed out into oil, sweeten the body for the life hereafter. Mary knew what she was doing. Oil, something we use today with Holy Unction, is pressed for medicinal, healing qualities. It comes from olives, and you can find it in the pyx carried by the priests to local hospitals and to the sick. Preparing a king, healing the sick, Mary was ready to prepare for a special message.
What greater love, what greater message than the one the father sent to the Son with this sweet perfume. She made Jesus become her one good friend for the day. God sent His Son to save the whole world, so all men would draw near to Him, to be good friends. What he found was like the little boy in school. He discovered, sometimes we are met with harsh stares and prideful defense; those who want power and authority, and control. It can be like a dessert out there during all that selfishness. Yet Jesus reminds us we are to bring joy, our message of love into the school rooms of our culture. We make ourselves into the servant, and we try to help others.
Just like Mary the one question we have today is this: Will you be that one good friend for Christ today? Will you prepare for a King? Will you allow his love to wash over you, anoint you, heal you? His message is the same. He has written, “I love you” and “My Son is your one good friend today.” Take this message to heart and you’ll understand by next week as we welcome the king who will enter Jerusalem on a donkey; He, who will pass over all the palms laid out on the road to a hard life, and the one who will lead to us to Calvary. Make that one good friend today be Jesus. Give him something that is costly. Give him your life. Give him your love as one in adoration. Just as… Mary, who sat before Jesus, with her hair, she washed His feet with Nard. Let us, like her, sit before the King, ready to prepare, as we know this life will be hard.
 John 12:1-8