Hunkered Down Devotion

John 12:1-7 (Voice)
Six days before the Passover feast, Jesus journeyed to the village of Bethany, to the home of Lazarus who had recently been raised from the dead, 2 where they hosted Him for dinner. Martha was busy serving as the hostess, Lazarus reclined at the table with Him, 3 and Mary took a pound of fine ointment, pure nard (which is both rare and expensive), and anointed Jesus’ feet with it; and then she wiped them with her hair. As the pleasant fragrance of this extravagant ointment filled the entire house, 4 Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (who was plotting to betray Jesus), began to speak.
Judas Iscariot: 5 How could she pour out this vast amount of fine oil? Why didn’t she sell it? It is worth nearly a year’s wages; the money could have been given to the poor.
6 This had nothing to do with Judas’s desire to help the poor. The truth is he served as the treasurer, and he helped himself to the money from the common pot at every opportunity.
Jesus: 7 Leave her alone. She has observed this custom in anticipation of the day of My burial.

This passage from John 12 is not one that usually gets brought out and shared during the stewardship or budget support campaign.  The image of Mary pouring the pure nard on Jesus’ feet and then wiping them with her hair is beautiful – if a bit strange – but it isn’t exactly a model of good stewardship.  

While we are already predisposed not to trust Judas because we know what role he plays in Jesus’ death, John also tells us he has an ulterior motive in questioning Mary’s action.  And yet, he makes a valid point.  Surely there are better uses of the limited resources they had than to waste it pouring perfume on someone’s feet – even Jesus’.  

But it is Mary’s actions that Jesus praises and Judas that is rebuked.  Why is that, and what is the message for us in all of this?  The answer, really, is quite simple.  Jesus cares at least as much about the ‘why’ as he does the ‘what’, and when those things seem to be in conflict it is the ‘why’ that usually carries the day.  

Mary’s act of humble service and adoration was acceptable and praiseworthy because it was a selfless act, done out of love for her savior.  It wasn’t done because it was prudent, it wasn’t done because it was somehow necessary (while Jesus’ feet – just like everyone else’s – were dirty, they weren’t more dirty).  

Instead, Mary’s act of humbling herself in worship might be compared to David dancing (in his underwear) before the people of Jerusalem after God had delivered Israel a great victory.  Mary, like David, was moved to an ‘undignified act’ out of love for God and as an act of worship.  

Worship is rarely practical or efficient, but it is always worthwhile.  And so, Mary’s act, though strange and – in at least a practical way – a waste of money, was blessed and accepted by the Lord.  Conversely, Judas advocating for the poor, though clearly in line with God’s heart and God’s call on all of us, is rebuked.  

Judas’ cry for the poor is rebuked, not because of what he is saying, but why he is saying it.  John tells us that Judas isn’t actually interested in helping the poor, but rather only in helping himself.  As the treasurer of their band of disciples, he saw dollar (or denarii ) signs as he eyed up the pure nard and was lamenting his lost opportunity.

Jesus knows our heart.  Jesus wants our heart.  Because of this, the ‘why’, not just that ‘what’ always, always matters.  
Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer: Lord, search our hearts, purify our intentions and set us on the right path.  Amen.

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