A Place for Extravagance

by Andy Wood on July 20, 2016

in Esteem, Five LV Laws, Following Your Passion, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Abundance

Alabaster Jar

Suppertime.  And it’s quite a little dinner party there in Bethany.  All twelve disciples of Jesus are there, as is Jesus Himself, for whom the dinner was made.

Curiously enough, Lazarus – the friend of Jesus who never uttered a recorded word – is there, too.  And this is after his four-day journey to the pit.

Martha is there, of course, being Martha, and making things happen.

And in comes Mary.  She’s carrying an alabaster box.  With all the movement and conversation as people recline at a Middle Eastern dinner table, I doubt very many people notice her at first.  But that’s OK.  Mary wasn’t interested in being noticed.  She was interested in something – and Someone – much greater.

That said, no one could escape the fragrance that filled the room.  It penetrated everything, everyone, everywhere.

Is that nard?

Nard it is.

That’s expensive stuff.  To say nothing of the now-broken box that carried it.

Where is that coming from?

The feet of Jesus, and the one who is so lavishly anointing them with what is doubtless her most valuable possession.

Broken.  Spilled out.  All for the love of Jesus.

Cue the Critic

Human nature requires, it seems, for something so pure, so lavish, so passionate to invite a second opinion.

“What a waste,” Judas mutters.  “This could have been sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor.”

Oh, the poor.  Always the poor.  The political cue ball for anybody to make a self-righteous or self-serving point.  John makes sure everybody knows Judas didn’t give a hoot about the poor; he just wanted Mary’s money.

(Just for perspective, a denarius was the Roman version of a dime.  Doesn’t seem like much, until you consider that a denarius was a day’s wages for a Roman soldier.  Want to compare?  Take your annual income and figure what 82% of it would be.)

Stop the Crossfire

“Leave her alone.”

Whoa.  This is Jesus doing the talking, and He’s in no mood.  The same Jesus who wept at Mary’s grief.  The same Jesus who promised resurrection to Martha.  The same Jesus who called Lazarus from the grave with success.  The same Jesus who would soon accept the praises and rejection of throngs of people, die like a criminal, then rise from the dead.

This same Jesus – the friend of the poor, the sinners, the common man – is in no mood for muttering or murmuring.  “Back off!” He says.

Then he adds:  “For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me” (John 12:8).

Translation:  You can do charity anytime.  But you don’t always have Me.

Jesus is saying at this point that there is a place for extravagance.  For ridiculously pouring out that which we treasure most – even if by human calculations it could do more good somewhere else.

The Heart of the Lavisher

Back to Mary for a minute.  What could prompt such a passionate expression?

Start with incredible gratitude.  Mary recognizes the surpassing value of what the Lord has done for her.  Do you?  Or has it been too long, you eyes dimmed by time and repetition of the story, or distracted by life?  Abundantly grateful people seem to look for abundantly extravagant ways to express the depths of their gratitude.

Mary also has some insight into the purpose of Jesus’ coming in the first place.  I think that’s why Jesus wept at the tomb of her brother.  He was brokenhearted that Mary was the only person on the planet that seemed to get it.  With Martha banging the pots and the disciples quibbling over who was the greatest, Mary sees the stunning depths to which Jesus descended to die for the bangers and the quibblers.  Such grace.  Such love.  And in Mary, such worship.  How long has it been since you fully grasped the cross and victorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus?

Mary has a love for Jesus that excels all material possessions or aspirations.  Crazy love.  After all, He was ridiculously precious to her.  To pour out such value to any other love would cheapen it.  But in offering it to Jesus, she only increased its value and influence.  Just as the fragrance filled the room, so Mary’s influence continues to this day to point people to a love worth giving our all to.

Add to that a sense of urgency.  Jesus wouldn’t be around forever; I think Mary knew that.  If ever there was a time to express, to take action, to declare in an act of worship who her faith was in, this was the night.  Something about the shortness of time called her out.  And it will do so for you as well.

Beyond Your Abundance

It’s one thing to worship Jesus in the poverty of your spirit or possessions.  It’s another to worship Him beyond the abundance of your possessions.

In a sense, the perfume “died” – its usefulness gone once the fragrance filled the room and the oil covered Jesus’ feet..  What can you do with your possessions – tangible and intangible – to offer them up in such a way that they “die” – even as their fragrance fills the room and they testify to the supreme worth and witness of the Lord Jesus?

What little we know of Mary, a scene like this is never repeated.  Your opportunities may not be, either.  But sometimes life presents us with those opportunities to offer Jesus the ovation of extravagant worship.

Ridiculous?  Yes.

But He is worth it, isn’t He?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Orlando July 20, 2016 at 4:55 pm

Oh, yes! Jesus is worth my all! May we all be inspired to give our utmost to His highest.
Blessings, Andy!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Shall We Go on Sinning?

Sara July 26, 2016 at 8:59 am

Yes, the fragrance poured on Jesus and filling the room of was a one-time event. People never forget how they feel in significant moments (JFK, 9/11), so to smell a similar scent recalls a flood of memories.

I’ll bet Mary kept the container, like some would keep their mother’s empty perfume bottle.

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