Note to the Teacher
The scripture passage is from the Gospel of John, where Mary anoints Jesus with perfume. The opening activity gets students working together to create the best smell. The discussion encourages students to put themselves in the room with Jesus as Mary pours out her perfume on his feet. The activity and discussion have students finding out ways they can sacrifice something for Jesus. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
1. Ice Breaker: 'That Smells Good' (10 minutes)
In this opening ice breaker, your group will get a chance to come up with their very own perfume, deodorant, or cologne smell. Students can work in pairs to come up with the best smell. Ask students take a few minutes to think about things that smell good and what they could combine to make the ultimate good smell. For example, I might add watermelon and Fruit Loops and call it “Waterloop” perfume. Encourage your students to get creative and then have everyone share and vote on who the group thinks will have the best smell. If creativity is not your group’s strong suit, consider creating a basic table (such as from Excel or Google sheets), with ten rows down and ten columns across. Then, in the first column, write down a favorite childhood treat in each square. In the first row, write current favorite foods. Then, work your way down each square in the table, combining the treats with the current favorite foods to create new taste/smell combos.
If you have students joining digitally, they can work together in breakout rooms or individually, depending on the size of the group.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today is the story where Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume. While we read the scripture, listen to how Judas reacts, and imagine you were seated at the table next to Lazarus.
Read John 12:1-8.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- Does this seem like normal dinner behavior or not? How would you have reacted if you were at the dinner?
- Based on Mary’s choice and Judas’s reaction (verse 5), how do you think those two characters measure value?
- This action was a sign of respect for Jesus (after all, this takes place after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead) – How do we show respect for what Jesus means to us today? How do our actions reflect how we honor Jesus?
- What do you think Jesus means when he says, “she bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial”? And when he says, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me”? (If students are unfamiliar with the term “foreshadowing,” you can introduce that idea. Jesus seems to know his time on earth is nearing an end, while his disciples are unaware.)
- Look at verses 7 and 8. Sometimes we wait too long to celebrate or appreciate important people in our lives and miss the chance. Mary honoring Jesus while he still physically lives could be an example for us. Is there a person you respect or care for that you have been hesitant to tell? Why is that difficult? How can we help you feel confident in honoring others?
Transition to the closing activity by telling your students they are going to get the chance to do something extravagant for Jesus.
4. Activity and Discussion: 'Offering' (20 minutes)
Explain to your students that today they are going to imagine being given a particular amount of money and will need to explain how they plan to use that money for Jesus. Your students may say they’re simply going to give it to the church. However, if that is the case, they will need to think about what they think the church should do with the money. Start by telling everyone they have $20. Give students about three to five minutes to come up with what they plan to do and have them share their basic ideas. Now, tell your students that they actually have $1,000 to do something for Jesus; repeat the exercise. If time allows, go up to larger amounts, big enough that they would stretch what is realistic for your context—like a million or billion dollars. Encourage students to think outside the box.
After everyone has finished sharing, ask the following questions:
- Was it easy or hard to spend your money for Jesus? Why? If this was actual money, and “your money,” would it still be as easy or hard to give away?
- Are there ways that we already live sacrificially to honor Jesus?
Remind your students that the sacrifice doesn’t have to be an expensive perfume or large sum of cash. The sacrifices we make daily to live out our faith can be as important as physical gifts.
Close your time together in a manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys and concerns, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.
Total time: 50 minutes
- Pens or pencils
- Index cards (1 per 2 students)
- Pieces of paper (1 per students/group)