Yesterday’s text at church was John 12, the celebration at Mary and Martha’s house after the raising of their brother Lazarus. Again, Martha is in the kitchen, serving. Again, Mary is at the feet of Jesus, this time pouring expensive perfume over his feet. She is sharply reprimanded by Judas as the value of the perfume could have greatly aided poor people (or his pocket as John implies). Jesus responds, “Leave her alone.”
Sr. Wantabee as a Woebegone Lutheran wondered where law and Gospel was found in this passage about extravagence. Slowly the light turned on that Mary’s extravagent love and gift of anointing Jesus for his death made her daily “good deeds” look very miniscual. The story was acting as law in her mind, convicting her of her selfishness. Where was the Gospel, the good news. Walking up the stairs, it dawned on her that the Gospel must of course be in the words of Christ, “Leave her alone.” The Marys and the Marthas are both needed in the church, social justice and pietistic love.
This morning she read in her devotions from Amos, criticizing the false piety of the temple people of his time. Yes they demonstrated religiousity by all their church activity but was there there true concern for the poor. Again she felt condemned as she pondered the commentators question in the shower, “Who would she bless today?” She thought, about who and realized that she would be blessed going about her business. Again the words of Christ rang in her ear, “Leave her alone!” It is not about plotting good deeds. It is about being in a good relationship!
oh dear, oh dear. This is a dense wood of deep thought for me. But I want to know the differences: ‘Law’ and ‘Gospel’ as seen in Mary’s action and what my actions today will demonstrate/ be a witness to.
BSF is studying John so as I began to read I thought I would be right with you (should have known better from past experience) and would understand what you are getting at.
Seems like an important distinction that will impact my daily living so if you could thin out the wood, I want to understand this fully.
(Not to say that I ever will.)
Thanks for writing. I’m enjoying all your postings very much.
“Law” is often thought of as the Ten Commandments or rules that convict me of me selfishness and drive me to the Cross. Gospel on the other hands is the good news of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. I would understand law as anything that acts on my consciousness to bring conviction of my unworthiness. I must run to Christ for salvation is found in him, not me. Gospel draws me into the heart of God. So when I read the passage and read of Mary’s extravegent love, I am so convicted of my own selfishness. When was the last time I did something so overtly demonstrative of my love for Christ? I am defeated. Where is there hope? Will I ever measure up? We can leave it with Mary, the good guy, and Judas, the bad guy, but that does not apply the story to me. If I walk away thinking I am more like Mary because I go to church and not like Judas cause I don’t overtly steal (and you cannot see the jealousy in my heart like his), I walk away self justified. I can only stand justified in Christ. So I must think again. I am not good like Mary. I know my evil heart. So where is the hope? Where is the Gospel? It must be in the words of Christ, “Leave her alone!” I run to the cross, to Christ, and hear him say to the convicting voice, “Leave her alone!” I am his and clinging to his arms which is Gospel! I am safe, loved, not because what I have done or left undone but because of His grace and his work on the cross for my sins. Hope that helps. Sr. Wantabee