29 March • Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Lent
1 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.
The Gospel of John presents Jesus Christ to us as the Son of God and the Saviour in order that we might believe in him and, it shows us what it means to believe in him. Christian life is a relationship between the Creator and creation. God showed us how much he loves us by sending His only begotten son Jesus Christ to this fallen world as a ransom for our sins. He gave up his greatest treasure to go through the sufferings on the cross, just because he loves us. This is the immeasurable Love that God has for you and me. As in any healthy relationship, love must be reciprocated.
God has instructed us in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one [the only God]! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and with all your soul and with all your strength [your entire being]. Our devotion to God is the greatest expression of our love.
Mary showed her devotion to Jesus by giving something that was of great value. A pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard would cost 300 denarii. Nard is an aromatic herb that grows in the high Himalayan pasture land of India and Tibet. It was very costly because it was gathered in such remote regions and had to be shipped such great distances on camel back. That perfume was extremely expensive. The denarius was the daily wage given to a worker in those days, so 300 denarii would have been a year’s wages because nothing would have been paid to the man for the Sabbaths or other holy days. 300 denarii is an estimated $36,000 – $40,000 annual income for people in today’s world. Here Mary expresses her devotion by offering Jesus something that was of great worth.
Judas saw this act of devotion by Mary as a waste, and suggested that the expensive ointment should have been sold and the money given to the poor. In the eyes of most, what Judas said would have made sense as loving people was a command given by God. But the truth as Jesus mentioned was that the poor would be always there, people with needs will always surround us, but our ultimate priority is the pursuit of His presence. Loving God is our priority and from that relationship we love others.
Judas was later revealed to be driven by greed. His greed led him to betray Jesus. I believe that sometimes our priorities are shifted by the attractions and even pressures of this world. Even our noble acts of charity should not precede our pursuit for His presence. We must learn to see our lives as one constant anointing of the Lord’s feet with very expensive perfume.
Lord help me prioritise the pursuit of Your presence.
Make time with the Lord the Priority each day. Block that time with God first.
Rev Samuel Gift Stephen
Life Centre (Formerly Smyrna Assembly)