It's six days before Passover, a week before Jesus will be crucified. Jesus arrives in Bethany where Lazarus lived. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead in the chapter before. There was a dinner party thrown in Jesus' honor. In Marks account it is recorded that it was in the home of Simon the Leper. So a former dead man and leper were throwing this party. I think that's kind of cool.
Martha served, Of course, Lazarus reclined at the table with Jesus, and Mary the one who seemed to always be at his feet, brought an expensive jar of perfume. She poured it on Jesus feet and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas, the one who was stealing from the wallet and was also about to betray Jesus, objected to this.
He asked, "Why wasn't the perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages". He didn't care about the poor, he wanted her to donate the money to their collective pot so he could have it.
In Mark when this story is told it indicates that more than just Judas were rebuking Mary.
"Leave her alone", Jesus said, "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."
This was Pastor Bill's sermon last week. The text is John 12.
My heart was stirred. I have heard this story so many times. I have sung the song that preceded the sermon numerous times...dating all the way back to high school..."Broken and spilled out". And yet God's Word revealed pierced my heart yet again.
Who am I? Am I Mary at the feet of Jesus worshiping the one who raises the dead and heals all my sorrows. The perfect one who came to earth for the sole purpose of saving me from death. The one who I can trust my heart to?
Or am I Judas...None of us like to think of ourselves as a thief. Or people of wrong motives.
But think of this, Judas and the others...The closest followers of Jesus... were critical of the worship sweet Mary was offering to Jesus. To them, her worship seemed extravagant and over the top. Weird. Unnecessary. They were not impressed with the outpouring of her gift.
These rebukers of the worshiper no doubt were judging her wisdom, intellect, motive, action.
Am I the one who stays at the feet of Jesus, offering what I have no matter how strange I may appear to even others who know Jesus. Am I the Mary, who brings my best in reckless abandonment to pour out whatever he has given me. My life. My most costly possession.
Or am I the one standing in the back of the room whispering to the person next to me how foolish the offering appears. Because I lack understanding. Because perhaps it's not the way we usually do things. Or maybe I, along with the others in this room, listen to negative talk about someone and start to believe it and chime in with my own criticisms because it makes me uncomfortable. I have a hunch these men weren't feeling at ease with this woman being so emotional in their presence. Awkward.
Or have I tried to give my life as Mary did, pouring out her precious perfume but after being rebuked by others for lack of understanding I have pulled away from the Master's feet into the corner where it seems safer. Have I believed the Judas and his band of critics?
I think it's easy to see myself in any of these roles. I have been each of these people.
I want to be a Mary with a heart that doesn't count the cost of reputation. Without thought to how it appears to other people...even other believers.
The perfume smelled sweet.
But to the critics it stunk.
Who did it smell sweet to? Jesus.
Who was she doing it for? Jesus.
Does it matter if it stinks to the crowd? Does it matter if no one else understands? Does it matter if everyone around doubts the integrity of the gift?
Who is the gift for?
It's for Jesus. And so when it smells sweet to him, you and I have accomplished what he requires.
A mind that believes fully in him. An undivided heart that shares him freely. The life that has been changed radically by his grace.
I want to be careful not to be the critic. The one who judges heart and motive. I may have an opinion about how certain things should be done but I am not God. I cannot read hearts. I cannot know motive. It is very destructive to others when I am fault finding and cynical.
If it smells sweet to him I want to sniff the same aroma.
Think of the position of Mary.
I think Mary had the best spot at the table.
The one at his feet.
It's where I want to stay. In complete adoration of "the friend of sinners". The one who offered me grace and forgiveness.
If I'm at his feet it's a lot harder to be standing in the back or sitting at the head in judgement of those around me. I can't really see others when I'm looking at his feet.
An act of worship that involves my most costly gift.
My life and all I have been given.
I offer it up to you Master.
It's all I got but I believe you when you say...it's all you want.