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. (John 12:1-3)
Each of the four gospels tells this story of Mary pouring out her bottle of expensive perfume at the feet of Jesus. In the absence of a stock market, it was common practice for men and women of the Ancient Near East to tie up all their life savings into an object that would be gradually sold off as money was needed. Mary likely poured all of her future into this one fragile investment.
The scene would have cut across all of the social customs. Women did not touch men in this culture—certainly not a man’s foot. One of the interesting things about Hebrew culture is that this was either an incredibly intimate gesture or one reserved for servants. Mary heaps shame upon herself and puts Jesus in a compromised position and what is so striking about this scene is that she seems to have no shame about the flagrant indecency, no awareness of the public disgrace, and no worries whatsoever about the waste of money. In laying at his feet, Mary is jeopardizing her present status; in emptying the perfume, Mary is surrendering her entire future.”
Her actions scandalize the guests: a shameful, extravagant waste they say. To which Jesus replies: “Yes, but Mary is the only one here behaving just like me. She is demonstrating the extravagance of human love by pouring out her whole self—financial, social, emotional—to gain your attention by a gesture of sheer beauty. I am about to demonstrate the extravagance of divine love—pouring out my whole self, physical, spiritual, metaphysical, to gain your attention by a gesture of sheer beauty.
Jesus is the extravagance of God and Mary is the only one who sees it. Her actions are not an endorsement of a posture of recklessness when it comes to reputation and security, but they are a clear witness to the reality that in light of the gift that God has poured out to us, such surrender of one’s life and one’s future to Jesus is the only action that makes sense.
SPIRITUAL PRACTICE: Surrender
What would it look like for you to surrender concern for your reputation or the outcome of your future to Jesus? As you enter your time of prayer, imagine yourself pouring out your future to Jesus. What do you have that represents your security?
Ask God how he would want to use that and then be silent. Write down what you hear God saying below.