John 12:1-8

Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.




John dates this supper as six days before the Passover – the last week of Jesus’ life. Almost half of John’s Gospel covers this last week.

The dinner was probably to celebrate Lazarus’ return to life. In spite of Jesus’ knowledge of what was going to happen within a matter of days, He would have been the guest of honour. This meal was probably held at Simon the Leper’s house (although John does not say this). Some scholars suspect Martha may have been Simon’s wife. The dinner followed the custom where the men sat and ate, whilst the women served them.

During the meal Mary gave Jesus a very extravagant gift. The event was unusual in that a guest’s feet would normally have been washed by a lowly slave as guests entered the house. Water would usually have been used rather than an expensive ointment, and a servant would have dried the guest’s feet with a towel, rather than one of the hostesses with her own hair. A Jewish woman never let her hair down in public. The whole act demonstrated Mary’s gratitude, humility and devotion to Jesus.

Spices and ointments were often purchased as an investment as they could easily be transported and sold. Mary used a whole pound (about 450 grams) of spikenard which was worth about a year’s wages for a workman. The oil is derived from a flowering plant in the honeysuckle family and it has such a sweet smell that John was able to remember it all those years later when he recorded the event in his Gospel.

Judas objected to Mary’s gift. It was too expensive and was such a waste of money which could have benefitted so many people who had nothing. (He may have been embarrassed by the extravagant display of Mary’s love for Jesus too. The guests, with the exception of Jesus, would certainly have been shocked at what she did.) John goes on to say, probably from hindsight, that Judas did not care for the poor because he was a thief.

Jesus defended Mary. His comment about the anointing being for His burial would have stopped other objections in their tracks for few people would criticise the money spent on a burial. Within a couple of days Judas would betray Jesus …

What is the first present you remember ever receiving? How old were you? Do you still have it? What did it mean to you?


  • How do you feel when you see someone showing their love for someone else in a public way through an act of kindness or generosity? What do you think it says to you about the kind of person they are? What does it say to you about the kind of person you are?
  • Do you think you can ever give a gift to express your love for someone that is too expensive? How would you respond to someone who said that the money you spent would have been better spent on the poor? Why would you respond this way?
  • Although Mary did not know it at the time, Jesus said the gift she gave was an anointing for His burial. When have you given/received a gift that, looking back, was given just at the right time and would not have been suitable earlier or later for any reason?
  • Judas complains; Mary worships. Spend a moment in silence with God asking Him whether you are a complainer or a worshiper. Listen. Share anything you hear if you can. What do you discover about yourself through this exercise?
  • What type of fragrance do you bring to the world? Why do you think this is so? What type of fragrance do you see other group members releasing to the world?
  • How do you show your gratitude to God for all the gifts He gives you day by day?
  • What gift does your community of faith give to you at this time?
  • How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?


Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time,and in regard to other needs of the group.


Look for ways to bring fragrance to your world this week. Share with the group next week what you feel that fragrance was and what it meant to the people you were with.


John Chapter 12

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