A Dinner Party
When we read the Bible, we have a deep-seated instinct to look at particular characters and compare ourselves to them. We look at them and wonder, Is this someone I should try to emulate? Or, Is something that they do something that I should try to emulate or avoid? I think what the biblical writers often do is put people together and show us situations that present an incredible contrast, resulting in a challenge to us.
One such scene is during the week leading up to the crucifixion. Jesus has come to town and he is in the home of Simon, the leper. There is a leper, whom he has cleansed, at their dinner party. Also around the table is Lazarus—a detail that we can easily read right over—but it was just a short time before this party that Lazarus was in the grave. Mary and Martha are also there with Lazarus. (John 12)
Imagine what it was like to sit around that table, along with the disciples, with the sense of gratitude and worship for Jesus. Mary goes and gets what was maybe a family heirloom, this precious nard, this precious perfume. She begins to pour it out on Jesus. Clearly, the disciples are looking on, especially Judas. I tend to think he's okay as long as she pours a little bit on, but she just keeps pouring. It's pouring down his head, all the way down his body, and down to the floor so that she begins to wipe it with her hair. Judas acts like he has some kind of altruistic motives; but of course, we know that the reason he is concerned about what he calls “a waste of money” is that he was hoping to pilfer. He's a guy who steals from the bag.
A Stark Contrast
So you have two very different responses to Jesus in this scene. You've got one person who's been close to Jesus for three years, and yet somehow, he's still only seeking to use Jesus for his own advancement, even to enrich himself. But then you've got this incredible contrast with this woman, Mary. Her gratitude and love for Jesus is so overflowing in her life that she's willing to divest herself. She wants to pour out the best she has, to pour out something of great worth. Judas looks at it and he says, “it's a waste.”
Anything that I give to him and for him will never be wasted.
This scene prompts us to ask ourselves the question, Where do I fit into this scene? Which one looks more like me? It prompts us to ask, Am I just seeking to use Jesus? Maybe it's not to get rich, but maybe for something else? Or, Does my love for Jesus overflow in such a way that I want to pour out the best I have to offer? I want to pour it out of love for Jesus, confident that anything that I give to him and for him will never be wasted.
Nancy Guthrie is the author of Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus.
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