Lenten Reader | Day 32

Expensive Perfume

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’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint 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.”

-  John 12:1-8
Mary was a devoted follower of Jesus and the sister of Martha and Lazarus. In chapter 10 of Luke’s gospel, we find her sitting at the Lord’s feet listening intently while Martha is consumed by preparations to be made. Here in John 12, we find Mary in her devotion seemingly wasting expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. As this event unfolds, Judas criticizes Mary’s actions, but Jesus stops him in his tracks – “leave her alone” – and goes on to give purpose to the occasion.

But Judas takes issue with the extravagance of the act, not the act itself. The expensive perfume could have been “sold and the money given to the poor.” What we can find hidden in the text is a contrast between the devotion of Mary and the betrayal of Judas. Judas hides behind religious execution while Mary is extravagantly devoted to Jesus. Mary doesn’t care what others think – she wants to give the most she can to her Lord.

In the season of Lent, we can learn from Mary’s devotion to God. Our world is full of polarizing and unforgiving opinions on every aspect of life. It can be easy to succumb to the squashing pressure of what others may think and stop short in following the Spirit’s leading. In doing so we become like Judas, simply making our faith about church attendance and good works. While neither of these are bad, without devotion we lack a sincere faith in Christ. What speaks louder than words to the world around us is not well-crafted arguments for our own opinions but our love and devotion for God and others.

A detail easily overlooked in the story is that the smell of the perfume filled the house. The effects of Mary’s act filled the room and left an impact on the audience. May we be like Mary, whose love for the Lord was overflowing and not like Judas, who hid behind religious acts.

- Brady Miller
Father, I want to love you extravagantly like Mary. No matter what other people think of me. Help me not to be content with just going to church on Sunday and doing good works. Help me be devoted to you.