St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 12:1-11

This homily is somewhat fragmented.

Jn 12:3. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

While Martha was serving, Mary anointed the Lord with ointment, thus accomplishing her love towards Him; and by the actions of both, the measure of love was filled up and made perfect.

Jn 12:4-8 Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, which should betray Him, saith, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now this he said, not because he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief and had the bag, and took away what was put therein. Jesus therefore said, Let her alone: against the day of My burying hath she kept this. For the poor ye have always with you; but Me ye have not always.

The traitor rebukes the woman who had shown her devotion towards Christ, and attacks the admirable deed, and affects to blame it out of love towards the poor, because ointment was brought and not money. But it was out of ignorance as to what is really excellent that Judas said this. For the bringing of presents unto God ought to be honoured more than the poor. |139 The Evangelist however sets forth the reason, on account of which Judas said this: it was not that he felt any concern for the poor, but because he was a thief and a sacrilegious person, stealing the money which was dedicated to God. And the Lord also makes it clear that the woman was free from any blame, whereby He covertly rebukes the traitor; not in His good judgment finding fault with things that were worthy of praise, but saying: Let her alone. And He said in defence of the anointing with the ointment, that it had been done, not out of luxu-riousness, but because of a certain mystery which had reference to His burying; although she who did it was unaware of the design of the mystery. For many things have been both said and done with, reference to a mystical type, when they who spoke and acted were unaware of it. Yet here again the Lord rebukes Judas, because he said this not out of piety, but because he was greedy of base gain, and was going for a little gain to betray his Master. For the burying and the allusion thus made to His death indicate this plainly. And the Lord also brings forward an argument which convinces us that nothing is better than devotion towards Him. For, He says, love for the poor is very praiseworthy, only let it be put after veneration of God. And what He says amounts to this: The time, He says, which has been appointed for My being honoured, that is to say, the time of My sojourn on earth, does not require that the poor should be honoured before Me. And this He said with reference to the Incarnation. He does not however in any way forbid the sympathetic person to exercise his love towards the poor. Therefore when there is need of service or of singing, these must be honoured before love towards the poor; for it is possible to do good after the spiritual services are over. He says therefore that it is not necessary always without intermission to devote our time to honouring Himself, or to spend everything upon the priestly service, but to lay out the greatest part upon the poor. Or thus: As He bids His disciples to fast after He had ascended to the Father, |140 so also He says that then they may more freely give attention to the care of the poor, and exercise their love for the poor with less disturbance and more leisure: which indeed was the case. For after the Ascension of the Saviour, when they were no longer following their Master on His journeys, but had leisure; then they eagerly spent all the offerings that were brought to them upon the poor.

Jn 12:9 A great multitude therefore of the Jews learned that He was there: and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom He had raised from the dead.

Through the strangeness of the sign the multitude are astonished; and that which they heard to have been done they wished also to behold with their eyes, that they might believe it more confidently. And they not only wished to see Lazarus, but also the Christ, the doer of the sign; not then seeing Him for the first time, for they had often seen Him and companied with Him; but inasmuch as He had gone into retirement, that He might not suffer before the proper time, they were seeking again to see Him: and the more reasonable among them even admired Him, as they recognised no fault in Him. With a settled purpose therefore the Lord did not immediately enter into Jerusalem, but remained outside, in order that by the report [which would reach the city] He might draw the common people to a desire of wishing to see Him.

Jn 12:10-11 But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.

See now how frantic the rulers seem to become, wildly rushing hither and thither under the influence of their envy, and saying nothing coherently. They seriously meditate murder upon murder, thinking to remove the force of the miraculous deed at the same time with their victim, that they might stop the people running to believe Christ. |141 (source)

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