It was a take-your-breath-away kind of thing to do.
It was crazy — though it had been planned, it appeared irrational.
It was a waste, or so it seemed.
It happened so quickly and unexpectedly that no one tried to stop her. But given a few moments of reflection and instigated by one comment of rebuke, they all spoke up and spoke against her and what she did. Even the disciples of Jesus, who likely considered themselves her friends, indignantly denounced her actions.
The event in question is Lazarus’ sister Mary anointing the head and feet of Jesus (John 11:1-11).
The expenditure was lavish. It had to be a significant part of her financial resources since the 12-ounce bottle cost something like $40,000-50,000 in today’s dollars (the annual salary of a day laborer).
But this was no spontaneous action. We know she had been planning this anointing because she had kept it to be used in anticipation of Christ’s burial (Jn. 11:7). She believed His prophecies and promises of going to the cross (e.g., Lk. 9:22) and she was keeping this great personal treasure for His burial. And on this day she lavished her Savior with the perfume and then humbly wiped the excess from His feet with her hair.
With those actions, her greatest gift had been given and her most humbling act had been offered. With her most valuable possession she anointed Jesus’ feet and with her most honorable personal quality she dried Jesus’ feet. There was no expense too great to pay and no service too menial to offer to express her love for the Savior, Jesus.
Of her actions, one writer observed,
[Love] cares nothing about expense. It cares nothing about what other people think. It cares only about the object of that love. [Stedman]
Mary gave lavishly because she loved lavishly. And as Jesus’ promised, her act still serves as a testimony to the nature of love for Christ.
And that compels us to ask ourselves about the quality of our love for Christ:
- In my love for Christ am I committed to giving to Him (giving up whatever I own and whatever I am) to serve Him and demonstrate my affection for Him?
- Is my commitment to Christ strong enough to equip me to persist in loving and serving Christ when criticized for that commitment by people I love and respect, or am I prone to change what I do to please those people?
- Is my love for Jesus reasoned and “appropriate” or is it lavish and extravagant?
- Is my love and service for Jesus the kind of love that leaves me “used up” and emptied (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6)?
The one thing we do not want to do is come to the remembrance of Resurrection Day or ultimately to the throne of God’s judgment and hear God’s evaluation of our love and discover that it is deficient.
Let the meditation of this Passion Week, the anticipation of the cross, and the delight of the resurrection lead us into a lavish love of the great and gracious God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Artus Wolffort, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.