Daily Devotion - Monday, March 21, 2016
12:3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 12:4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 12:5 "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" 12:7 Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. - John 12:3-5-7
As we enter into Holy Week, our lectionary text for today points us toward an important truth about the Passion of Jesus--namely, that it's marked by extravagant sacrifice.
This story from the Gospel of John is found in all four Gospel accounts, with slight variations in each. In each of the stories, Jesus is at a dinner party and a woman (she's named only in John's account) enters the room, pours expensive perfume on Jesus and is then roundly criticized by some of the people who witness it.
I have to admit, there is a lot that is awkward about this scene. When I was in seminary one of my professors had a bunch of us students act out the scene while she read it. The young woman playing Mary had long hair that was pulled back into a pony tail. We all knelt on the ground as if we were at a first century dinner party.
As the professor read the part of the story where Mary poured out the perfume and then wiped it with her hair, the young woman let her hair fall down, shook it out and then bent down to toss it over the feet of the young man playing Jesus. The room was dead silent when this happened. We all felt like a bunch of sheepish little kids--embarrassed by what we saw.
To see a woman do such a thing in the ancient Near East would have been incredibly shocking. Not to mention the fact that the perfume she poured out over Jesus' feet was worth a year's salary for the average person. The extravagance and shocking nature of this gesture was not lost on Judas, who criticized it.
What this woman did was incredible, however. She took a treasure that she'd been hanging on to, saving for her future. The perfume could have been sold, and given her security--a dowry for marriage, perhaps. Some versions of this story claim the woman had a checkered past, which meant she would need some security, and some substantial means to entice someone to marry her.
But she poured out her future at Jesus' feet. She debased herself, to honor Jesus--not caring what others thought or felt about her extravagant gift. And as a result, Jesus lifted her up in return.
I struggle sometimes to trust Jesus with my future, and the notion that if I give extravagantly to him today, I might not have enough tomorrow. I worry too much about what others think at times, and I hold back the gifts I ought to give to honor Christ, to declare my faith and trust in him. This story calls me to faithfulness, and gives me courage to pour out my life in Jesus' name.
May you find the courage to give extravagantly of your life and all that you have to honor the name of Jesus and lift him up to the world. May you find the strength to trust him with your future. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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