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The finest perfume

Monday, March 21, 2005

John 12:1-8
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."

Jesus unfailingly directed his disciples to humble themselves and honor him. He taught them every day the principles and practices of submitting to God. They learned slowly - being human - but they learned.

Mary's perfume cooled and soothed Jesus' feet. The fragrance filled the room for everyone, and gave all a moment for relaxing, breathing in deeply, being together and loving Jesus. Judas spoke up and ruined it. He and Mary seem at opposite poles of the submission spectrum. Judas learned slowly, if at all, but Mary made it seem so natural and easy to love Jesus, to honor him, to follow him.

I want to be like Mary. Whatever ability God gives me to understand, analyze, or synthesize experience I want to use only to get closer to Jesus, not to question him. That's not easy for me. I have my own idea of what is right and what should be done, and I know God wants me to trust myself. And I know Jesus doesn't object to being questioned (although He rarely answers, at least in the Bible; instead he asks an illuminating question of his own).

But what is best? It's best to be like Mary, and so that's what I want to be. I think that means to serve others and focus on Jesus, finding radical ways to honor him and worship him that challenge those around me to do the same. And it means to always submit my thoughts and questions to the omniscient One who made me, and seek answers only through him.

Lord, you know all and you made us in your image. I want to know too. Give me perspective and patience as I spend my life getting to know You.

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