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Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom
Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” —John 12:1-8
This is a story of extravagance. The woman chose a very expensive perfume—spikenard—that came all the way from India and poured it on the head of an itinerant rabbi from the backwater of Nazareth. Why?
Jesus gives us a clue: she has anticipated anointing his body for burial. Somehow, this woman knew what Jesus was about to go through and why he was going through with it—and she wanted to honor him in the highest way possible. She was so moved by the sacrifice that he would make for her and for the whole world that she felt compelled to pour her most precious possession on him in an act of thanksgiving and worship.
This woman’s action seemed wasteful to the disciples because they had yet to grasp the extravagance of Jesus’ sacrifice for them. Think about what Jesus gave up when he became a man: the glory of heaven, the worship of angels, his place at God’s right hand. Think, too, about what he endured as he taught and ministered: the skepticism of religious leaders, the suspicion of the Romans, the unbelief of his followers, the sleepless nights praying, the endless days preaching and healing, the comforts of home and family. Finally, think about what he suffered in his passion: rejection by his people, the thorns, the scourging, the blinding pain, the agonizing thirst. And he did it for you. He did it so that you could be forgiven and welcomed into heaven. He sought nothing for himself—it was all for you.
Jesus is the extravagant one. He is the one who gives us gifts far beyond what we deserve. He is the one who loves unceasingly and excessively. In light of such love, what could be more appropriate this coming Holy Week than to give him the most precious gift we can—our hearts?
“Jesus, I am in awe of your love! I adore and worship you for pouring your life out for all of us!”