Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 TNIV)
As we move into a new semester I want to encourage you to be extravagant worshippers. In this account of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany there was an opportunity for extravagant worship but only one person, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, seized it and poured out over Jesus perfume that was worth a year’s wages for a labourer.
There were various other people at this event in Bethany. Mary was busy serving; Lazarus was still amazed to be alive; Judas and some of the other disciples criticised the wastefulness of Mary’s action; the chief priests were plotting to kill Jesus not to worship him and the crowd had come to see the show. Only Mary seized the moment.
So what can we learn from her?
• She was sensitive to the moment because she had spent time at Jesus’ feet previously (Luke 10:38,39)
• She was grateful because Jesus had raised her brother from the dead and spoken words of life to her (John 11)
• She had a revelation of Jesus’ worth. She poured all the perfume out, not holding any back. Then she unbraided her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet and, in doing so, opened herself up to criticism as an immoral woman.
Judas, who saw Mary’s action as a waste, stands for those who see any service of Jesus as a waste because they have not loved or recognized him. But, in order to be wasteful, we must be giving more than is necessary or giving too much and nothing can be too much or wasteful if it is given to Jesus.
How did Jesus respond to Mary? Jesus valued her gift. He understood all about extravagant giving. He was about to pour out his own life for us. Jesus was only a few days away from the cross, surrounded by those who either did not truly understand what he must do or who wanted to kill him and here was a woman who was ministering to him in a way that spoke of his death. The anointed one, the Messiah, was being anointed for his burial and, even if Mary did not fully understand what she was doing, Jesus did It is easy for us to look back and criticise those who thought it a waste to anoint the Son of God. Could they not see who stood among them? But, at this point, Jesus had not yet died and risen from the grave. It was not yet so obvious.
Jesus said that Mary had anointed him beforehand for his burial (John 12:7,8). After his death all his followers wanted to anoint him but Mary acted before. This perfume was poured on Jesus’ head, clothes and feet only a few days before his crucifixion. Possibly the strong, sweet smell clung to him throughout his trial and execution. This may have been the last lovely fragrance that he would smell as he went to the cross. What a gift to give him.
One day we will all stand before him and we will love him as we have never done before. We will gladly pour out our best before him in worship but what about today? Do we always recognise and value the One who stands among us even at this very moment? Are we ready to be extravagant worshippers?
‘The Lord’s first concern is with our position at His feet and our anointing of His head.’ (Watchman Nee p.184 The Normal Christian life)
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