Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

19 The Fragrant Smell of Serving

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Mark 14:3-6

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. 4 Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. 5 “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly. 6 But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me?

John 12:1-5;7

Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. 2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. 3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages.[c] It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial.

This is one of my favorite acts of service in the bible because this woman served Jesus with what she had at great personal cost, holding nothing back. Its unconventional giving that at first doesn’t seem to make sense. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified, and on the way he had stopped at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany. We don’t know exactly who Simon was but he was a healed leper, and likely one of the many people Jesus touched and healed. It’s interesting that he was now “Simon the Cured,” but he was still referred to as “Simon the Leper” may be because that’s how he had been known for so long. Sometimes God does an amazing work of healing in our life but we still do and say things that focus more on our diseased past than our cured present. During the meal to honor Jesus, while He is eating, a woman comes in and interrupts dinner. How many times was Jesus interrupted in His public ministry? This interruption is different, it is a simple story about a woman who, in the presence of Jesus Christ, was so overwhelmed by the wonder of who he was and all he had done, that she gave all she had to honor Him.

Mary served through:

  • GIVING

There are many different kinds of giving in the bible, some gave time or money and this was her way of giving to Jesus. Giving is the story of the Christian faith and the Bible is filled with God giving to us. God gave man life, created the world for him and gave him dominion over every other creature. He gave man a home in the Garden of Eden and when man sinned, he gave him a promise of redemption. He gave the law, the church and the promise of eternal life. He gave us his Son, Jesus, who gave His life. One of the most famous scriptures John 3:16 says “God so loved the world that he gave…” But giving is not a one way street, it is also the story of man giving back. Cain and Abel brought gifts to God, Noah got off the ark and gave an offering to God. The Israelites gave tithes to God and the early church is described as a fellowship of givers. Jesus had given Mary her brother Lazarus back to her from the dead. He had shared with her secrets of the kingdom of God, (she knew Jesus was going to die and so she anointed Him in preparation for his burial). She gave her precious perfume to anoint the one who would give His precious blood to redeem. Have you accepted what Jesus has given you? What are you giving?

  • EXTRAVAGANCE

Scripture says that it was a year’s wages and the disciples objected, unable to appreciate the gift of love that Mary had given. They said, “This perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.” And it could have been it would have been a great use of the perfume, after all, Jesus was a friend to the poor. It was also Passover week, when special efforts were made to help the needy.  From the disciples perspective this was wasteful and how could anyone who ought to be giving to the poor just throw it away like this. Imagine how much good could have been done if it had been used to feed hungry families or clothe naked children! Instead it was wasted through the extravagance of an impulsive woman. They saw the jar only as expenditure but Jesus saw true extravagance. No one complained about the money Simon spent on the meal they were eating but they got to partake in the meal.

Extravagant giving always seems wasteful to those who try to put a price tag on it and there is a certain recklessness in love which refuses to count the cost. As a parent I love my kids and am willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary. Love is not love if it neatly calculates the cost. Mary’s gift was priceless because it wasn’t about 12 ounces of perfume; genuine love always contains a certain extravagance about it. It’s tempting to put a price on the perfume, a cost per ounce, but how many ounces of Christ’s blood did He pour out for us and at what price? The different viewpoints in the story reveal the heart because outlook is often determined by what is inside. Judas had witnessed an action of love and he called it extravagant waste, but we need more of that waste, because the offerings of love are never a waste. Is my serving marked by extravagance or do I hold back my best. Is my service one of “old spice” or the best spice?

  • GIVING ALL

“Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.”

Mary took the most precious thing that she possessed, 12 ounces of perfume, and she spent it all on Jesus. She gave every ounce to anoint her Savior, could she have gotten by with 1 or 2 ounces, would that have been enough? Giving is not measured by what we give but by what we hold back. The first decision she had to make was whether to break open the jar and the second how much to give. After she gave, Jesus responded by saying Mary “has done what she could”. She gave her best, isn’t that what Christian service really is? Her jar was empty but the house was full of the fragrance. Many of us want to hold onto what we have because we are afraid of the empty jar. We keep a lid on our serving, we are content to fill up 12 ounces of space when there is a whole house that could be filled. If we really want to smell the fragrance of service then we have to first open the jar and second let it all out. How does your service smell?

Sometimes I wonder am I doing the Christian life right? Am I making the most of the moments God gives me? When the woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ head, some people at the banquet thought she did a foolish thing. Like this woman I know there are those who look at what I have done in serving the Lord and they see it as a foolish thing. So I question am I doing the Christian life right? What makes it right?  I find a calm and reassuring answer to this question in Jesus response to the critics, He rebukes them harshly and said, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me?”  I think the answer to am I doing the Christian life right is found in the question, “Who am I doing it for, is it pleasing to God?” It didn’t really matter what the crowd thought, but what Jesus thought.

She gave extravagantly, holding nothing back and it caused me to ponder this question

“Would I be willing to pour a year’s wages on the feet of Jesus?”

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