Do you know someone who lights up a room when they walk in? Or who instantly brings the mood down upon entering? It is interesting to observe group behavior and how it can be changed with the addition or subtraction of one personality.
I am still experiencing a little PTSD from Sunday’s Oscar ceremony. I am sure by now that you have seen the clip of Will Smith walking up onto the stage and slapping Chris Rock for a joke he made in reference to Will’s wife. Jada Smith suffers from alopecia and is bald. Rock made a joke about “GI Jane 2,” a reference to a movie with a female character who shaved her head for combat.
Neither man was right. It is wrong to mock someone’s medical condition. It is wrong to assault a person because you don’t like what they said.
In the aftermath, much has been written about the crowd’s behavior. Regardless of your opinion about their reaction, one thing is clear: the atmosphere in the room was irrevocably changed. A few people who spoke after the assault tried to lighten the mood and help the crowd move on, but the thing that we all witnessed permeated the rest of the night. People were unsure of what they had just seen. Then ten minutes later, they gave Smith a standing ovation for his Oscar win. Twenty years from now people will still be talking about this year’s Oscars, but not for the right reasons.
This Oscar night began as a bright and spangly celebration, as the Hollywood elite joined in person after a year of isolation due to the pandemic. Even if you care very little for the event, it felt good to realize that holding the Oscars in their legendary theater was a sign that things are becoming normal again. The glitz, the glamour, and the gowns all spoke of a return to the pleasant superficially of movie makers and their stars. And let’s face it … movies helped us get through two years of isolation. But in one ill-considered exchange, two men changed the atmosphere of the event and it will always be remembered for that. Our delight in the evening came crashing down with the stink of their behavior.
This serves as a reminder that you can change the atmosphere for better or for worse by the things you choose to do and say.
We turn our attention to John now as we move closer to the crucifixion in our story. Easter is on the horizon, but we are not there yet. In this passage, watch for what Mary does.
John 12 (Common English Bible)
12 Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.2 Lazarus and his sisters hosted a dinner for him. Martha served and Lazarus was among those who joined him at the table. 3 Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound, of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair. The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume.
We see another lovely picture of the Martha/Mary dynamic. Martha served. Of course Martha served! She was the one who was always focused on the practical task at hand. We need Marthas to get the jobs done around us. But we especially need the Marys, who see the world through spiritual lenses and show us what God is doing in our midst. She chose to anoint Jesus’ feet with costly perfume, and the pleasing aroma of her prophetic offering filled the entire house. Everyone received the blessing of her gift as they breathed in the fragrant perfume.
4 Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), complained, 5 “This perfume was worth a year’s wages! Why wasn’t it sold and the money given to the poor?” (6 He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would take what was in it.)
And then comes Judas the mood-killer, questioning her actions and taking all the joy out of the moment. He calls their attention to the price of the gift and how it had just been squandered. He points out the waste of it and makes them feel guilty for having enjoyed its sweet fragrance. He changed the atmosphere. But Jesus intervenes.
7 Then Jesus said, “Leave her alone. This perfume was to be used in preparation for my burial, and this is how she has used it. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you won’t always have me.”
Jesus saw exactly what Mary was doing and used it as another step toward preparing them for the crucifixion that was yet to come. He invited them to live for a moment in the present, warning that they won’t always have him.
The challenge for us is to heed his words. Where is God calling you to be present in the present and fill your house with joy and peace? The people in your house won’t always be with you. Is God inviting you to examine the effect your attitude has on others? Is God directing you to change your behavior?
You can fill your house with the scent of positivity or the stink of negativity. You can bring everyone up or push everyone down.
Which will you choose?