How should we express our devotion to Jesus? How far should we be willing to go, and how far is too far?
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor.Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 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.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you,but you will not always have me.”
How should we express our devotion to Jesus? Mary displays her devotion to Jesus in the most extravagant of ways, and it isn’t hard to see why her actions might have raised eyebrows around the dinner table. She uses up to half a litre of expensive perfume to wipe Jesus’ feet. Imagine offering one of your dinner guests some of your expensive Chanel perfume so they could wash their hands? Well Mary’s actions are even more extravagant than that, because we’re told the perfume was worth three hundred denarii – a whole year’s wages!
The way Mary behaves here fits with her character as described in Luke’s gospel. While her sister Martha is busy serving, Mary is sitting attentively at Jesus’ feet, listening to his words (Luke 10:38-42). Mary adores Jesus, and here she shows her adoration in a way that fits with who she is as a person.
This is her personal expression of worship. She isn’t doing this because she has to, and her actions aren’t meant to be prescriptive for us. This is a unique event. Mary’s adoration occurs here in a private context with close friends. The beautiful thing about Mary’s actions is the way it shows us that we are free to express our devotion to Jesus in a number of ways. The freedom to love and serve Jesus in a way that fits with who you are as a person, and in a way that is authentic to you.
Judas Iscariot is the voice of the practical social activist, “What a waste! The perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor”. (In fact, Judas protests for more sinister reasons, because he was a thief who would steal money set aside in the money bag).
Sometimes it is true that high-minded ideals and self-righteous piety can stand in the way of genuine compassion and practical ways of serving. But it is also true that sometimes the practical and pragmatic solutions can overshadow the joyful spirit of worship and adoration.
Head: Mary was using the perfume to show her adoration. For what purpose does Jesus attribute to the perfume? (Jn. 12:7)
Heart: How does Mary’s more private expression of devotion help us to think about how we express devotion to Jesus?
Hands: How might you express your love for Jesus?
You truly are deserving of all my worship and praise, for you are my Father – perfect in righteousness, holiness and truth. Thank you for Jesus, and that he is risen from the grave and sits with you in glory. By your Spirit that lives in me, fix my heart upon who you are and what you’ve done for me. Help me now to cast aside all distraction, and just give thanks for you.
In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.
A song to listen to: Jesus Paid it All