I’d only come to see Lazarus.
Well, it’s not every day that you see someone who’s been dead and is now alive.
And there he was!
Looking a little pale, I grant you.
It gave me the creeps, you know.
Made me come over quite cold – as if someone had walked over my grave.
There he was sitting next to Jesus, laughing and joking.
I ask you!
It didn’t seem decent somehow.
Someone next to me said: ‘I suppose he really was dead?’
And I said, ‘Oh yes. My daughter-in-law’s aunt is the woman who laid him out.’
Of course we all wanted to know what it felt like to be dead.
If truth be know, that was why we were all here.
Well, it’s not every day that you meet someone who’s been and come back again.
That woman from down near the olive trees asked him.
She’s very pushy.
The conversation died away into an inquisitive silence.
‘Beautiful and terrible,’ he said.
‘Beautiful and terrible and familiar – as if you’ve know it from all eternity.’
Well, that put her gas at a peep.
Of course I had decided that I was just going to behave exactly as though nothing had happened.
I just said, ‘Well, my dears! I’m delighted to see your brother looking so fit.’
Someone else said, ‘I dare say the whole thing’s been exaggerated.
When I was ill last spring I was unconscious for hours and had the most extraordinary dreams.’
But what if it was true?
If Lazarus really had been raised from the dead?
Well, if he toured the country telling his story the whole world would be converted to Jesus’ ways.
It was just then that I smelt it.
A twitch of the nostril first and then a wave of it swept over me.
I inhaled deeply… mmmm… marvellous… exquisite…
Where was it coming from?
Not Lazarus, that’s for sure.
No, he smelled… how can I put it?
Earthy. And a bit fusty, to tell you the truth.
But this was wonderful – rich and heady.
The woman next to me said it was Mary, Lazarus’ sister, who’d broken the lid from the vase of perfume.
A beautiful alabaster jar too. What a shame.
Then, my dear, you won’t believe what happened next.
The crowd had shifted a bit and I had a clear view.
As clear as day, I tell you – as clear as you are to me right now.
You see, it hadn’t been an accident – the breaking of the alabaster jar.
No, Mary had done it deliberately.
And you won’t credit it but she was pouring it over Jesus’ feet. His feet!
I heard a man saying, ‘I dare say it’s not very expensive.’
How like a man!
Perfume of that quality must have cost pounds and pounds.
Then she anointed his head, as though he were a king.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
We were all stunned, you see.
Stunned into silence watching this … this act… this very intimate act, if you know what I mean…
Actually I felt rather uncomfortable but I couldn’t have dragged my eyes away if I’d wanted.
I mean, it was really rather beautiful.
Rather holy, if you know what I mean.
I mean, Mary – well she’s always been rather excitable.
And I suppose she was grateful about her brother and all that.
But this wasn’t just a drop or two of perfume – it was the whole jar of it.
Excessive isn’t the word for it.
And of course I wasn’t the only person to think so.
I heard Judas saying quite clearly that he couldn’t see any reason for this waste.
‘That perfume might have been sold for a few hundred pounds and the money given to the poor.’
That would have been far more suitable.
Well, you won’t credit it but Jesus said – said while oil still glistened on his skin – said,
‘Let Mary alone, Judas. Why are you so unkind?’
You could see that Judas didn’t expect that!
A man standing up for a woman.
Not exactly commonplace, is it?
Then he said a strange thing, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
I really don’t know what he meant by it.
He said ‘What she has done for me is a work of charity. For if she kept this perfume, it was that she might anoint me for my burial.’
What do you make of that, then?
I saw Lazarus smile at that, as if he knew a secret that we didn’t know.
He didn’t look frightened anyway, of this talk of death.
But then he wouldn’t, would he?
He’s been into the valley of the shadow of death and come out the other side.
There’s not many can say that.
But it’s made me think.
I’ll never forget Mary and what she did.
I think they’ll talk of her for years to come.