{RE:} Reflect on Devotion

Thursday: Reflect on Devotion

On Monday, we asked God to help us stay awake this week as we journey with him.
On Tuesday, we reflected on God's overwhelming and faithful love for His creation.
On Wednesday, we reflected on the cost of following Christ.

Today, we will reflect on what it might look like to show Christ our love.

Read - John 12: 1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.
Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Reflect -

Three of the Gospels depict a woman anointing Jesus' feet with oil in the days leading to his death. John is the only one who identifies the woman as Mary of Bethany. Mary is a good friend and devoted follower of Jesus. In a different era of history, she may have actually been called a disciple (but that's a post for another day...). Earlier in the Gospel we are told that Jesus visits this same home and Mary cannot be bothered to prepare for guests because she is too content to sit at Jesus' feet. So what we read in this morning's Scripture isn't completely out of character, but it's a scene that is shocking to the point of embarrassment.

Imagine this scene - in the chapter just before this one, Lazarus has been dead for days and Jesus had taken his time getting to Bethany. Mary and Martha are both distraught and question Jesus' absence. We know how this story ends (if you don't, go read John 11 - so good!). Jesus resurrects his dear friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha's brother.

And now this scene in John 12 opens with Jesus, the disciples, and Lazarus who is very much alive reclining at a table eating. The house must still be filled with overwhelming gratitude, shock, disbelief...

Mary takes a "pound of pure nard" and anoints Jesus' feet. Wow. There is so much to unpack here.

First, let's acknowledge that this is awkward. It's uncomfortable. It's a vulnerable and intimate moment. Love (no, I'm not talking about romantic love) Love will make you do really dumb things. Love will make you do overwhelming, awkward, vulnerable things. Mary's love for Jesus has been evident throughout the Gospels, her devotion is extreme. Despite how awkward it may be for the rest of the room, Mary and Jesus both seem unbothered. Because Mary's love and devotion was so consuming she didn't have to feel shame. She was vulnerable.

  • Have you ever experienced a love that made you do crazy things? What do you think it is about love that might blind us to other's opinions?
  • Have you ever witnessed an intimate (again, not even talking about romance necessarily) moment between 2 people? What was your natural response?

Women did not touch men they weren't married to in those days. Mary takes a risk to be near Jesus. She needs to be close to him, perhaps she understood Jesus' prediction of his death? Whatever the motivation, she didn't care about perception or consequence. She just wanted to be near Jesus.

  • Pause this morning and ask the Holy Spirit to stir this kind of desire within you. 

A pound of pure nard would have been almost a year's salary at the time. Nard didn't even grow in that region and had to be imported. So it is possible that Judas was being genuine in showing concern about the cost. But I wonder if it's actually projection - he is watching this woman pour out something that is so valuable and just "waste" it all in the name of love and devotion. Judas sees a woman who is able to be vulnerable (naked and unashamed) with Jesus. Perhaps he is jealous that he is unable to show that same vulnerable intimacy. Perhaps he is filled with shame because of what he is about to do?

  • Have you ever known someone who loves Jesus in a way that is almost absurd? Does it make you long to be closer? Does it make you a little uncomfortable? 
  • How would you describe "pouring out a costly oil" in "here and now" terms? What does it mean for you to pour out something costly as an act of love and devotion?

Nard wasn't just any oil, it was burial oil. Again, we ask if it's possible that Mary has perceived what the others couldn't? Maybe it's just coincidence, but Jesus doesn't seem to think so. Jesus tells the disciples once again that he is about to die. He tells them that she is anointing him for burial before he goes to die. 

Anointing in the Old Testament is usually reserved as a mark of royalty, with oil being poured over the head (think of Samuel anointing David as king). But Mary is anointing Jesus' feet, an act that Jesus would repeat with his disciples later. I love to read this as Mary anointing Jesus as a very different kind of king. It's hard not to think that Mary understands what is coming for this teacher that she loves deeply, vulnerably, ridiculously. 

  • Take time to just sit with this example of unashamed devotion to Jesus. What do you sense in you as you think about it? 
  • What might keep you from this kind of devotion? 
  • What would it look like for you to live with the posture Mary had in the gospels - a deep longing to be near Jesus, a contentment to sit and learn at his feet, an absurd love and devotion. 

We know that God loves us with an unending love. We know that Christ has called us to follow him. But do we follow with our whole selves, uncovered and unashamed?

Respond -

I ask you, Lord Jesus,
to develop in me, your lover,
an immeasurable urge towards you,
an affection that is unbounded,
a longing that is unrestrained,
a fervor that throws discretion to the winds!
The more worthwhile our love for you,
all the more pressing does it become.
Reason cannot hold it in check,
fear does not make it tremble
wise judgment does not temper it.

-Richard Rolle (ca. 1300–1349)


David Edelstein - April 14th, 2022 at 4:55am

The biblical character Hannah reminds me of a woman who unashamedly prayed to God and vowed to totally dedicate a son to God's service if He would provide her with one. During her prayer she was so intent that she didn't care how she appeared while the high priest was observing her.

Kaitlyn - April 14th, 2022 at 5:06am

Oh that’s another great one David!! Hannah absolutely was filled with great desire and a deep hope in Yahweh! She didn’t even care that people thought she was drunk. Man, I wish I didn’t care about what others thought as much. It makes me think of how sometimes I’ll dance and sing more freely in my car listening to worship songs. But I tone it down when I get to a red light. Hahah

Nick Tebordo - April 14th, 2022 at 5:23am

I associate my love for Jesus with Matthew 25.

“Inasmuch as you’ve done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto me.” The kind of love Mary (and Hannah) show is so personal and so beautiful. In worship I seek to express my love for Jesus. Songs such as “Arms of Love” and “So Close” come to mind as I reflect. In this case, my love flows directly to Jesus. Right now I am thinking of the Maverick City Music song, “Jireh”. “You are enough-always enough….”

Melody - April 14th, 2022 at 6:46am

For some reason today's questions are turning my mind to Zimbabwe. I remember when AJ, Dan, and I went there the first time, it was my first international trip ever, and my graduate advisor (who traveled everywhere) thought I was crazy to go at that historical moment. But Louisa told me, if God has called you to go, you have to go.

And a year later, political conditions were even worse; there was no food in the shops and people were desperate. But they asked me to come back, as I would be in South Africa for a conference & had a few days off. I went alone, and as I was speaking to the congregation, protesters were going by in the street. It wasn't logical to be there at that moment in time, but I felt no fear. These were only brief moments, though.

But someone I think of who literally gave his whole life for love of Jesus, is Dan Vissani. After that first trip, he knew this was what God was calling him to do. He had left a really great job at GE as a brilliant engineer, and worked as a farmhand on an organic farm outside of Troy, not knowing why God had put him there. And that trip to Zimbabwe confirmed his call. He and his family are in Zambia teaching sustainable agriculture and spreading the gospel to this day. *That* is what pound-of-nard level devotion looks like to me.

Linda Comstock - April 14th, 2022 at 7:42am

A song comes to mind that fills me with such a love for Jesus. "What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see. When I look upon His face, the one that saved me by His grace. When He takes me by the hand and leads me to the promised land. What a day, glorious day that will be." My love for the Lord is mighty.

Susan Blais - April 14th, 2022 at 8:06am

I have often been known to be fairly frugal. I was taught this by my mother. So, I often have had difficulty understanding this story. But, it is also some thing that I long in my heart to not only understand, but to want to do myself. I do believe that Mary has a perception about Upcoming death. She wants to give of herself wholly and is not afraid to make her feelings known. Lord, I want to be like Mary and give of myself and my belongings to you to show you An unabashed love for you. Help me, to get past myself and my upbringing to do this for you.

Linda Comstock - April 14th, 2022 at 8:23am

As I watch out the window and see God's creation come alive, I see God's love being poured out. From death throughout the winter to life coming back alive. Through this I see an image of our Lord's death on the cross to His resurrection. He lives! May my love for Him grow as strong as His love is for me.




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