Prepare Our Hearts – Day 6

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Monday, April 6, 2020

Text: John 12:1-11
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

After raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus and the disciples stuck around for a dinner in His honor.  At the dinner we find each member of the family offering their thanks and appreciation to Jesus in the best way that they knew.  Sister Martha is back in the role she loved and excelled at: serving and hosting and making sure everything was taken care of.  Lazarus, the man who had been lying dead for 4 days, presumably after taking a good long bath in attempt to remove the stench of death, is reclining at the table, enjoying the fellowship of Jesus.  And, once again, we find sweet, tender Mary back at the feet of Jesus with the most precious gift she could find: a bottle of pure nard. 

Now, nard was an extremely rare and exotic aromatic herb which was found only high in the pasture-land of the Himalayas, quite a journey from Jerusalem.  A bottle of pure nard, as Judas-the-betrayer informs us, is highly valuable, worth as much as an entire years wages.  Mary, rather than simply giving her most precious possession to Jesus as a gift to use or sell as He pleased, instead, as the other gospels tell us, breaks open the alabaster bottle which held it and pours it over His head.  There is so much valuable perfume that it covered His entire body, with enough remaining at the bottom that His feet must be dried, which Mary gladly does with her hair. 

As the house filled with the most beautiful aroma that had ever entered the nostrils of any of those in attendance, Judas says what perhaps many of the others were thinking – “What a gigantic waste, this is ridiculous!”  After all, wasn’t this the same Jesus who had previously told others to go and sell their possessions and give them to the poor?  Few, if any, possessions could possibly be more valuable than an entire pound of pure nard!  Of course, the only reason Judas objected was because he handled the money and thus regularly syphoned off a few denarii here and there while the rest of them were preoccupied, all the easier with such a large sum!

While Judas’ motives were suspect, his question was a valid one.  Jesus responded without hesitation with a line that is often taken out-of-context and used to justify lavish personal spending.  What Mary did, Jesus explains, was a sacred offering to the Lord, and had the significance of preparing Him for His burial, which unbeknown to the present audience, would be in a matter of hours and days.  As to the objection about the poor, they would always be present, always in need of help.  This was not so much a prophetic statement as it was simply a fact.  In essence, mind your own business Judas.  If you want to help the poor, you go and do that anytime, you certainly have the funds to do so.  I will not always be with you, but they will.

There is so much going on in this brief exchange, but perhaps the biggest takeaway from our passage is that it is impossible to adequately express our gratitude for God has done for us.  If Jesus had told Mary, to raise your brother Lazarus, I require a bottle of pure nard.  Of course, she would have made that trade in a heartbeat.  Mary did not think of her perfume as a payment for services provided, but rather a small taken of her appreciation.  Nothing Jesus could have requested would have been a price too large to pay for His incredible work. 

What about us?  Do we feel the same?  For the Christian believer, Jesus has done far more than “merely” save us from temporary death.  Even Lazarus, as we saw from the plot of the chief priests, would die again.  How could we ever earn or pay for the gift of everlasting life, securely hidden and purchased by Jesus on our behalf?  There is nothing He could ever ask of us that would be too large a price, and nothing we could offer Him that would come close to returning the favor. 

Prayer for Today:
Jesus, we come before You today with hearts full of gratitude for what You have done for us.  There is nothing we could ever do to earn You, nothing we could ever do to repay You.  The only thing we can do is respond to Your gratuitous gift to us with humble worship.  Remind us who we are without You; lost forever and wandering in the darkness with no hope of escape.  All that we have is Yours, may You do with us as You please today.