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Unashamed, Extravagant Affection for the Son of God (3)

We’ve been trying to understand the difference between how Mary and Judas responded to Jesus as a way of exposing the nature and intensity of our own affection for the Son of God. The story we’ve been looking at is found in Mark 14:1-11. Continue reading . . . 

We’ve been trying to understand the difference between how Mary and Judas responded to Jesus as a way of exposing the nature and intensity of our own affection for the Son of God. The story we’ve been looking at is found in Mark 14:1-11.

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” Jesus Anointed at Bethany And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him (Mark 14:1-11).

I suggested in the previous article that perhaps Mary felt tempted to apologize for the perfume, not because it was so expensive but because it was so cheap when compared with the infinite value of the one whom she anointed. Imagine a conversation that could easily have passed between Mary and Peter:

P: “300 denarii! Mary, are you sure you want to do this? I mean, really!”

M: “Oh my, Peter. You’re right. I can’t believe I was so stupid and calloused and unthinking. What’s the matter with me? I hope you and the others will find the grace to forgive me.”

P: “That’s O.K., Mary. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Surely you haven’t forgotten how many times I messed up in the last three years. If I only had a denarius for every time I stuck my foot in my mouth!”

M: “Thanks, Peter.”

P: “Think nothing of it! We all make mistakes. Remember, it’s all part of growing up spiritually. Maturity only comes with time. Every once in a while we all miscalculate and tend to go overboard.”

M: “Overboard? What do you mean?”

P: “What do you mean ‘what do I mean’? I mean overboard. After all, 300 denarii is a staggering sum of money.”

M: “Staggering? You mean pathetic and paltry, don’t you?”

P: “No, Mary. I mean staggering, as in way, way, way too much.”

M: “Peter, I don’t know how to say this without offending you, but we’re on different planets! Yes, I’m embarrassed by what I did, but not because 300 denarii is so much but because it’s such a small sum of money in comparison with the incomparable worth of Jesus.”

Had the hymn been written by then, Mary would surely have sung:

“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my life, my soul, my all!”

Christians have often been accused of lacking common sense, and rightly so. But there is at least one occasion when so-called “common sense” is “nonsense”, and that is when the Christian expresses her love for Jesus. There is a vast difference between the economics of common sense and the economics of love, and each has its place. Common sense follows the dictates of wisdom. Love is energized by the passions of the heart.

I can hear the protests of those whose common sense told them that Mary had violated what was proper and prudent: “She’s out of control! She has no sense of proportion. She’s so undignified! Mary, what’s the matter with you. We have a reputation to uphold. An image to protect. A position to maintain.” Such is their judgment because all they see is Mary. All they see is the wasted perfume. All they see is disorder. All Mary sees is Jesus.

What do you see when you worship? Other worshippers? Words projected on a screen? A worship leader? A hymn book? An orchestra or guitar player or drummer? You watch, as you wonder how much longer can this possibly last? As long as you remain a spectator of people rather than a participant, extravagant worship will never make sense. Common sense will always prevail over passion. It will always strike you as such a waste: of time, of energy, of your reputation. Those who found fault with Mary stood aloof to watch rather than to worship and thus mistook her beautiful act of adoration for waste. Mary didn’t stand aloof but drew near. All she saw was Jesus. And what she did felt so inadequate, so paltry, so minimal.

Even after getting a proper grip on what Mary had done, misunderstanding persists. You can hear it in the typical response: “Wow, Mary sacrificed a lot to worship Jesus.” No! Think carefully about this:

Mary saw Jesus as one whose beauty and worth were so infinitely more satisfying than all rival pleasures that nothing she gave up to gain him felt like a sacrifice.

A sacrifice is some price we pay, some hardship we endure to gain something else. For example, I may sacrifice the joy of ice cream for the benefit of losing weight. Or I may give up or sacrifice $9 to see a good movie. I hope the weight loss and the movie make worthwhile the sacrifice I made to get them. My point is that in every sacrifice there is a sense of loss, of something paid or forfeited or given up.

But not with Mary! What she gained in knowing and enjoying and loving Jesus transformed into a great joy what might otherwise be thought of as a painful sacrifice. She gladly endured the rebuke of the disciples. She joyfully humbled herself in public. She happily gave away a year’s wage. Why? Because in doing so she gained God!

Once you see Jesus as Mary saw him, you will never ask: “How much money will it cost me?”

Once you have tasted the sweetness of the savior, as Mary did, you will never ask: “What will people think?”

Once you have experienced and known and enjoyed Jesus, as Mary did, you will never ask: “Will I die as a martyr? Will I lose the respect of others? What physical comforts will I forfeit?”

Do you long to love him like Mary did? Is it your desire to experience Jesus the way she did and to know him and enjoy him to such a degree that, like her, you’re ruined for anything else?

Then I encourage you to search your soul and ransack your life for anything, no matter how small or seemingly trivial it may be, that hinders whole-souled, single-minded, all-consuming devotion to Jesus. Hobbies? Activities? TV? Internet? Facebook? Money? The fear of what others might think? And deal radically and ruthlessly with it!

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