Hello, it’s Friday – the weekend is nearly here and excitingly, so it seems, so too is the British Summer. Bring on that warm weather Lord!
This week, we’ve been asking the question: who is Jesus and what does he means to us? We’ve reflected on his divine nature, his sovereignty, his great sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection through which we receive new life. Today, we end our week by going back to what we were talking about at the start of the week – that as we see and experience Jesus more fully, we discover that he is worthy.
Our reading for today is John 12:1-19; let’s look at verse 3: Then Mary took about a half a litre of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Our daughter Naomi is three and a half and loves coming to church. She loves the people there. Loves to play with her friends. To eat copious chocolate biscuits at the end. And she loves to dance. And as she has become increasingly more independent, we have found that she will often take herself off to front of church during times when we are worshipping together and find herself a space to sing, dance and twirl around in whatever dress she’s sporting that day. She did it again this Sunday and after a while Jo gave me that look which said, ‘You better go check where she is.’ So I subtly made my way down the side aisle and peered across to see that she had made her way to the very front – a good few metres away from anyone else and she was just gazing up at Becca, our worship leader here at STC. The expression on her face was one of wonder and amazement. It was a lovely moment to witness.
We’ve all probably had those moments maybe whilst at a sporting event, a gig, a show or something of that nature when we just look at someone and think…’You’re so cool. Gifted. Talented. (Insert suitable adjective here). I wish I could be like you.’ We give that person worth in our eyes. In a way, we worship them.
What we see in today’s passage is also worship. Mary, the brother of Lazarus, takes this hugely expensive jar of precious perfume and anoints Jesus with it and the wipes his feet with her hair. And we’ve already begun to talk today about worship but what we see here is something much more than that – it’s sacrificial.
Sacrificial in the sense that the perfume was costly – it equated to nearly a year’s wages.
Sacrificial in the sense that Mary anoints his feet – often the work performed by a servant.
Sacrificial in the sense that she wipes Jesus feet with her hair. An extraordinary act given that Jewish women at that time rarely unbound their hair in public.
What we see Mary expressing here is an act of utter devotion to Jesus. It’s intense. It’s deeply personal. She is literally giving herself to Him. So extravagant are her actions that those around the table become uncomfortable.
What’s our response to this as we read this passage again? Do we look at it and, like some of the disciples we read about today, do we feel uncomfortable? That it all seems just a little bit full on? Do we look and feel inadequate? That we could never give of ourselves so fully like that?
In a sense all of these thoughts focus on how we express our worship when the better and more pertinent question would be why. Why does Mary behave towards Jesus in this way? We can’t really know. But her actions do give us a clue. Her actions all point away from her and towards Jesus. They each involve the letting go of one thing and the giving over to another. Each action denotes the value Mary places in knowing Jesus, in being with him, in serving him. They speak of his great worth.
John constructs his Gospel account in such a way that gradually we are exposed more and more to the fullness of who Jesus is. The word made flesh, John speaks of, who comes and lives amongst us. And with each compelling event, conversation and action John is asking us the question – Who is Jesus? And are we giving Jesus his full worth? Where do we place him in our lives?
Later on in the passage we see Jesus ride into Jerusalem as king. If we say Jesus is King then is he sitting on the throne of our lives? Or is it something else that’s in his place? Is it money, career, achievements, reputation? Is it our relationships? Do we sometimes recognise that we place other things – as important as they are – above our relationship with Jesus? Do we see where we sometimes unintentionally shunt Jesus down the pecking order– often tagging him on as an additional extra at the end of our days?
Is Jesus sitting on the throne of our lives?
Rather than beat ourselves up with guilt or give up because it feels like too much of task, we would be wise to look again at Mary and see that giving Jesus his full worth is not about doing more, it’s about letting go.
What do we need to let go of this day in order to know and experience Jesus more fully?
God, thank you for speaking to us through the scriptures this week. Thank you for revealing yourself to us through your son, Jesus. Help us to embrace the life of freedom you have won for us. To let go of the things which hold us back so that we may know and experience you more intimately this day. Amen.
READING: John 12:1-19
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about half a litre of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ‘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.’
Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.
The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’
Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written:
‘Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.’
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realise that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’