In this 2nd part of a series of posts, we look at the story of Mary anointing Jesus' feet with perfum in John 12:1 - 8. Something of this act of extravagant worship thrilled Jesus but at the same time had a provocative impact. Judas Iscariot, after witnessing this, went to the chief priest to plot his betrayal. So what can we discover from this extraordinary event?
What is extravagant worship?
What was the worship that she brought? Sometimes you can see a sign outside a church saying ‘Divine worship is conducted here at 9 am and 11:30 am’. But this is different. This is a very strange thing. Lets looks at this worship more closely.
- This worship was not religious. It wasn’t what you see at a Sunday church service. Religion is predictable. ‘Religion abhors eccentricity’ writes A B Bruce. Religious people don’t like strange things happening.
- It was lavish. Mary breaks a pint of expensive perfume and pours it out on Jesus. In duty free stores, I look for perfume for my wife and I’m shocked at the size of the bottle in comparison to the price! It’s ridiculous! And this is a pint. This is totally over the top.
- It was very costly. The perfume cost a whole year’s wages. She was from a simple background. She lived in a village. And here she was smashing a pint of expensive perfume.
- It was humbling and shocking. Mary let loose her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet. Hair and feet don’t generally go together. She’s doing something shocking in that culture by unraveling her hair. It’s an extraordinary thing that Jesus is being cared for by this extraordinary act. She’s risking being totally misunderstood. This is worship? Yes it’s worship that Jesus wants the whole world to hear about. She was risking her reputation here. Some of us would find it easier to risk one year’s wages rather than one’s reputation.
This was exclusively between her and Jesus.
The disciples saw her as totally irresponsible. They would rather the money be spent on the poor. Then Jesus says this, ‘the poor you will always have with you. You won’t always have me.’ Edwards says, ‘Jesus puts Himself forward in scandalous prominence.’ The whole thing is shocking.
Paul says ‘we don’t preach ourselves’. Not so Jesus. He says ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, the Bread from heaven, the true Vine, the good Shepard. Come to me.’ He always preached himself. Jesus is not a little bit of religion you do at 11 am on a Sunday morning. Jesus can satisfy every need of life.
Often we find people who don’t understand what Church really is. Political voices think that they can tell the church what to say and do and think as though they know what the church is. They don’t understand the mystery of personal devotion to Jesus. They think the Church is some philanthropic institution that is here just for the poor and the needy - a bunch of do good-ers. Now we know that the Gospel has massive social implications. In the OT they were told to care for the poor. One of the things the prophets told the Jews was that God was angry that they were grinding the faces of the poor in the dust. We are supposed to have a social conscience. But if you think that that is all Christianity is about, then you have missed the point.
Jesus said He wanted this spoken about wherever the Gospel is preached. Why? Because at the centre, there’s something profound about personal devotion to Jesus.
What is your motivation? Is it doing good or is it Jesus?
A submitted heart
Jesus had won Mary’s heart. She’s absolutely devoted to Him and her extraordinary devotion was totally acceptable to Him.
Down through the centuries, the advance of the church, in terms of global mission, has been accomplished by crazy people. Men and women like Jackie Pullinger, Gladys Elworth, CT Studd and Jim Elliot. Reckless abandonment is the high motivational drive of the gospel because you’ve just been blown away by the love of Jesus.
In the final part to follow, we shall look at why Jesus wanted everybody to know about this event.