It started with a resurrection.
Not THE resurrection - though at the time it seemed that way.
You know that when someone you love dies, the one thing you long for is to have them back...to be given one last chance to hear their voice, to tell them the things you'd always meant to, ask them that all important question, to hug them and never let go...
When Lazarus, our brother, died Martha and I felt just that way.
We would have given anything to turn the clock back.
Suddenly all our joy, all our security seemed to be in the past.
The future looked cold and threatening for two women, abruptly left alone.
And we were angry...angry at God for taking our protector from us, angry with our "friend" Jesus, who was too busy healing total strangers to come to Bethany and heal one of his best friends.
When he did come,- too late even for the funeral - he was as upset as we were.
He wept - hot tears brimming from his eyes, running down his face, making tracks in the grime of his journey from Jerusalem.
And we told him what we thought of him
"If you'd only been here, none of this would have happened!"
We didn't care if we did make him feel guilty,-to be honest, we wanted to.
It seemed only fair that he should share our pain.
But neither of us was in any way prepared for what happened next...his demand to visit the tomb, his peremptory instruction, against all sense and hygiene, to "Roll away the stone"...and his call into the darkness
"Lazarus! Get yourself out of there..."
From then on, I knew I owed him everything, and as the weeks went by, I realised that in raising Lazarus he had put himself in the firing line, that the authorities were outraged, had only one thought in their minds now.
Jesus must be stopped.
He had literally exchanged his life for that of Lazarus -
And I had no idea how to repay him.
I wanted to give him all that I had and all that I was....but how?
What symbol, what ritual, could ever be enough.
My gesture must be obvious, dramatic, an outpouring of thanks and love...and so I decided.
That precious jar of pure scent...saved for my wedding, or if that day never came, then to be used at my death...
Perfume to transform the ordinary, in an anointing that created prophets, priests and kings...
Perfume to represent an overwhelming tide of love and gratitude...
So, that Monday evening at our home in Bethany, it was obvious what I must do.
I slipped from the table, as Jesus sat chatting with our friends..slipped.away from the circle of candlelight into the shadows...fetched my precious alabaster jar - a jar as beautiful as the perfume within,and broke it open, before I had a chance to change my mind.
No going back - at once the perfume poured over my hands, over his hair in extravagant profusion, flowing down his face and over his clothes, to his feet...
Beautiful feet - that had brought good news to so many.
Now it was my turn to weep, washing those feet with my tears, pouring out my sorrow for was to come, my thanks for all his friendship meant to me, my longing to give myself to him, completely and wholly, from that day forward for ever more.
That was my wedding day.
Judas was angry.
Of course he was.
He knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
There was no chance that he would understand what I was trying to do.
All he could see was waste - just as later, waste was all he would recognise as his Master poured out his sorrow and love from the cross.
But Jesus understood.
Standing at the crossroads of past and future, he made it clear to us all that he would always be present in the poor, that I could cherish them, weep over their feet and be as close to him then as at that moment...
But he made it clear, too, that in this symbolic gift of myself I had lost nothing.
I was to be remembered - my small sacrifice a prelude to his great sacrifice...my washing of his feet a precursor of the moment when he would kneel at the feet of his friends, offering them that intimate, transforming service.
Sorrow and love flowed mingling down
Now he is gone...but I see him every day in the poor.
And I have no regrets.
Were the whole real of nature mine
That were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.