Losing a loved one had really hit her hard.
Christ had stood with her in her sorrow and entered into her tears, but then he did something completely unexpected. In a demonstration of the power by which, on that great day, he will raise the dead and usher his people into a life of unending joy, he called out to her brother, who had been buried some days before: “Lazarus come forth!” And to her complete astonishment, he did.
A Costly Gift
A few days later, Mary was sitting with her sister and her miraculously restored brother at a dinner given in honor of Jesus. As her eyes moved from her brother to Jesus and back again, she felt that she must find a way of expressing the gratitude and love for Christ that was overflowing in her heart.
An idea came to her. She had an alabaster box of expensive perfume. It was a nest egg, worth an entire year’s wages; something that a person would save and perhaps pass on to their children. But it occurred to Mary that there could be no better use of this prized asset than to pour it out, in its entirety, over Jesus, and that there would be no better time to do this than now. So she poured the perfume over the head of Jesus.
As she continued pouring, the costly gift ran down over Jesus’ shoulders, soaked into his robe and eventually dripped down onto his feet. When the last drop had been poured from the bottle, Mary knelt before her Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.
A Calculated Restraint
You might think that a person who lavished a costly gift on Jesus could count on the support and approval of other believers. But when Mary got up she realized that a cold chill of disapproval had spread around the room. Even our Lord’s disciples felt that her lavish act of devotion had been a waste (Matthew 26:8).
Their mistake was in asking the wrong question. Looking at an asset that was worth a year’s wages, they asked, “What could be done with that?” and of course there are endless answers to that question. But when Mary looked at her asset, she did not ask, “What can I do with what I have?” but, “How can I honor Jesus Christ with what I have?” She was looking for a way to show Christ how much she loved him. She wanted to convey the depth of her gratitude for all he had done for her, and this led her to a beautiful, creative, outpouring of her most valuable asset.
For the disciples, the cost of Mary’s perfume made what she did wrong. For Mary, the cost of the perfume made what she did right.
The Right Question to Ask
Think for a moment about the assets of time, talent, and treasure that God has entrusted to you in this season of your life: If you ask, “What can I do with what I have?” you will immediately be confronted with a vast array of possibilities. There are so many places in which you could spend this season of your life, so many ways in which you could spend your money, and so many opportunities for you to use your gifts and talents. Ask what you can do with what you have, and you will soon find yourself drowning in a sea of endless possibilities.
So instead of asking, “What can I do with what I have?” learn to ask, “How can I honor Jesus Christ with what I have?” What would it look like if you were to pour out the assets of time, treasure, and talent that God has trusted to you in this season of your life?
Responding to these questions will help you to move beyond the calculating restraint of the disciples, and it may lead you to acts of sheer extravagance that demonstrate the depth of your love for Christ. In his death, Christ poured himself out for us. In our lives, we have the opportunity to pour ourselves out for him.
This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s March 2017 column in Mature Living Magazine.
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