Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.
Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, even then getting ready to betray Him, said, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor? It would have easily brought three hundred silver pieces.” He said this not because he cared two cents about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of their common funds, and was also embezzling them.
Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.”
John 12: 1-8
Mary’s love for her Lord found a unique form of expression. She took a bottle of very rare, expensive perfume, and poured it all out on Jesus’ feet! Imagine! All of the sudden the room was filled with a delicious fragrance! Everyone could not help but be aware of what had just happened. Not only was Mary publicly anointing the feet of her Savior (who had recently brought her brother Lazarus back from the dead), but one could not escape the strong aroma…. She topped off this display by drying off Jesus' feet. Only she did not use a rag or cloth: she used her hair!
How did people react to this extravagant display of Mary’s love for her Lord? Apparently, most of those who were present did not object. At the very least, they didn’t have a problem with the way Mary was expressing her love. Who could blame her? Remember that her brother Lazarus had just been resurrected from the dead by Jesus. This makes her over-the-top perfumed devotion much more understandable.
Judas came unglued. Perhaps this was partly because Mary's intimate display of affection made him uncomfortable. There are some people in the world who are not fond of, or comfortable with, physical displays of affection. Yet that is not what is happening here. Judas’s heart had already become so hard that he couldn’t even imagine such a loving embrace. Judas’s biggest objection, and the one which is mentioned by the Gospel writer of Luke, is about the money. We have all heard the expression, “the love of money is the root of all evil”, well this has to be the most perfect example of that expression. Judas complains about the significant money spent for this expensive jar of very fine perfume. Why hadn’t it been sold, and the money given to the poor? Knowing what we know about Judas, do we really believe his complaint was sincere? Are we to believe that Judas wanted to sell the perfume and give the money to the poor? He really didn’t care about the poor. His real intention was to swell the common purse that he was responsible for. According to Luke, Judas had already been stealing money out of this common purse. Judas was hoping to pad that purse a bit more for his own designs.
Judas “appears” to be so concerned about the poor that he blurts out his criticism. This is not about being generous to the poor, it is about Judas and his true character. Giving to those in need is never a bad thing. It is the false excuse that Judas is attempting to present that is clouded.
Jesus didn’t buy into Judas’ objection. In fact, I think he saw right through Judas’ scheme. However, Jesus’s greater concern at that moment was protecting Mary. So, he said, “Leave her alone!” Then, Jesus rightly points out that the opportunity to minister to him while he was with them on this earth, was coming to an end. Jesus was right there, fellowshipping and dining with them. Yet He knew it wouldn’t last for long! Events later in the week revealed the sad truth of His statement.
What does this tell us about Jesus, and about how we can and should express our love for Him?
Jesus blesses those who show extravagant love towards Him, not just monetarily, but spiritually, and with acts of kindness.
Jesus is fine with unique and very personal expressions of our love for him. Artists and musicians of the world have known this to be true for thousands of years. Jesus doesn’t like us judging each other. One person’s way of expressing love is not wrong if it is different. Jesus accepts, and yearns for our love, in whatever way we choose to demonstrate it.
What’s more, our opportunities to express our love for our Lord may be far more fleeting than we realize.
So, on this Monday of Holy Week, I would encourage you to love extravagantly. We never know from day to day what life will bring us. Each and every day, we should embrace any opportunity to show our love for God, and for those around us.
As you show your love, remember Jesus’s desire for us to be understanding and accepting of others. We can cry over the cost of spilled perfume, or we can enjoy the sweet aroma of love. Which would you rather do?
Prayer for the Day
How we enjoy the sweet smell of the love you have for us. In return, may we offer You our unconditional love, uninhibited with the constraints the world would put upon us. Help us open the doors of our hearts to embrace you as Mary did: without any inhibitions. Lord, help us to find the joy in giving You all that You desire: our love. We pray this prayer in Your holy name.