Preaching without spiritual aroma is like a rose without fragrance. We can only get the perfume by getting more of Christ. –A.B.Simpson
The devotional today is centered around a moment of pure worship, as Mary breaks the alabaster jar of her inheritance, and “wastes” it in one movement of extravagant, lavish affection. For this great act she is not lauded by the populace, she is despised and ridiculed. All opinions in regards to her actions seem to be in agreement, except for one. The only One who really matters.
Jesus, the great Rabbi and benefactor of her affection demands she be left alone, and declares something truly radical- that the fullness of the gospel is not proclaimed unless her story is told right along with the Good News of Chris’ts birth, life, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Yet, how often have you heard her story? Really heard her story?
Mar 14:6-9 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” ESV
I have wondered at the house of Bethany, the place where Jesus could be “himself”. The place he frequented more than any other, the place of his friends. Bethany means date house, or house of figs. This rings of the symbolism of the nation of Israel which is often called a fig tree. Perhaps here, he envisioned the true Israel. A house of welcome for the Messiah, a place of friendship and easy graces. Laughter and study, and food. True food.
The nation was turning it’s back upon him. Would declare him accursed and deliver him up in a short while, but here, here he was among friends and in that place a woman believed what the others had refused to hear. He is going to die. They are going to kill him. In that revelation, she longed to show kindness to him while he was still in her midst, and to give him everything she had, everything she could. Her love as perfume filled the house where they were sitting and everyone was marked by the fragrance of her devotion, and the declaration of his death-and it made them mad!
Grumblings were heard, eyes were rolled, costs were tallied, some perhaps covered their nose to get away from the smell. Judas felt his pockets tingle with the loss of such revenue, and they did what most do when they are uncomfortable with someones “over the top devotion”, they accuse her motives.
“Look at how selfish she was, that could have fed a whole village of lepers for a month! Such a shameful waste, such a loss! Look at it there on the ground…they will never get the smell out of this house!”
Perhaps, that is what she wanted. To never have the smell leave. To step into the room and instantly remember where he sat, how he smiled, the words he spoke. Smell is the greatest trigger of memory, and this moment would forever remind her of her love. It would remind him as well.
I can imagine the beautiful Son of God closing his eyes as the fragrance slowly rolled down his hair, the sides of his beard, onto his shoulders, to his hands, his feet. Drenching his robe. Was he in that moment remembering the fragrance of Heaven? Did he feel the love of his Father in her actions, remember the glory he laid aside, and would take up again? Did his heart fill with joy at the recognition of this little Eve, this little girl in the garden with her eyes open to the Tree of Life, choosing him, choosing love, choosing to worship in spirit and truth. Doing what she could with what she had? Did he remember his words to the serpent, and his promise to the woman and know that at this moment enmity was at work, and the battle was raging towards the cross?
Leonard Sweet in his book: Jesus: A Theography, mentions this story and makes the statement that Jesus came into this world smelling stable dung and straw but left it smelling perfume. The fragrance of that oil would have stayed with him through the long night in the garden, through the beating, the crown of thorns, the lashes, the crucifixion. The aroma of love would still be on him, mingling with his sweat, his tears and his blood.
The question was asked: “When have you allowed your love and devotion to Jesus to let you do things that other people wouldn’t understand, and might ridicule? All for the love of Jesus?!”
I close my eyes and remember the fragrance of my devotion, the times when I have abandoned my heart to Him this way. Intimate times when I have poured out my tears, and my words in longing love. Delightful moments when I have whirled with childlike abandon in meadows of camas, and weak, humble times when I have lain prostrate before Him.
I remember the sweetness of just wanting to sit at His feet, know the tenderness of His love, hear Him speak to my heart in familiar tones, to just say my name and say his back to Him. I have been ridiculed, and pushed away, corrected, and chastised for the way my heart is at times lavish in its expression. It is this story that reminds me of my inheritance. It will not be taken from me. He receives my love even if others question my motive. I remind myself when I find the stiff gazes of the cold religious fixed upon my face, that He is my audience of One. I live for Him alone, unto Him alone.
My prayer oh Lord is that you break me open and pour me out. That, the devotion of my life would be lavished upon you as oil. That you would remember me as the joy set before you as you delight in the fragrance of my worship. Draw me, and let us run together! Help me tell your story from the place of the fellowship of our hearts. Make me a Bethany of your presence and may our love burn at the hearth a never ending flame that even death can not quench.