“She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”
Her name was Mary. She lived with her brother and sister in a home not too far from Jerusalem. She was a friend of Jesus of Nazareth.
She was worried. She knew something bad was going to happen. She saw the proverbial train wreck coming—and she could not stop it.
The word had gotten out. Jesus was going to be killed.
Even some of his enemies tried to warn him. Luke reports, “At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
Jesus’ reply was, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal’” (Luke 13:31,32).
This would not bode well.
Worse, Jesus began to tell his disciples that he must suffer many things and must be killed.
None of this made any sense to them. When Peter objected, Jesus called him “Satan” and said, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33)
Mary could not stop the coming tragedy. So, she did what she could. She prepared his body for burial.
We can relate to Mary. We, too, may have encountered situations where we felt helpless to help someone else in time of need.
We can’t cure terminal cancer. We can’t stop wars. We can’t erase the replay of traumatic events that torment a mind. There are many things we cannot do no matter how much we wish we could.
Sometimes, like Mary, we cannot stop a person from doing something that we know will cause pain, maybe even death.
That can leave us frustrated or angry; and certainly, sad.
We might say, “I can only do what I can do.” But we are not happy with that. We think, “If it were me, if it were my life, I would do something about it.”
Then, the realization dawns that there are things we cannot fix, problems we cannot solve.
Judas had the same concern as Mary. He looked in and saw that Jesus was not going to set himself up as king in Jerusalem. Perhaps, he saw this coming before other disciples did. James and John were still thinking that they could get a share of the power and glory of the kingdom that Jesus was going to establish on earth. So did their mother.
All of them were wrong. “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus explained to Pilate.
So, why was he here? Why was he not sitting on his throne in heaven?
We think back to that scene in Bethany. We begin to realize that Jesus had come to earth to fix a problem for us. The problem was our damning sin and the death sentence it carried. We needed his help. We were lost without it.
He could do what we could not.
Jesus was pleased to accept Mary’s loving gift. He praised her for it.
He rejected the claim of Judas that the money could have been spent for a better cause.
He pressed forward on his rescue mission. He was willing to bear the pain and pay the price though it would cost his life.
He did what he could. He suffered. He died—because he loved us.
Was that enough?
Easter morning’s empty grave is our receipt.
Our debt is paid in full.
Lord Jesus, you are the help of the helpless and the hope of the hopeless. What was impossible for us was given as a gift to us. We marvel at your power. We marvel more at your love. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.