John 12:1-11 – Extravagant Love

Read John 12:1-11

Today’s reading is a beautiful example of expressing our love for Jesus extravagantly. When is the last time you gave Jesus way more than you could afford in terms of possessions or time? Too many people show up for church on Sunday and think they’ve done their “deed” for the week, refueled their tank, so to speak. We were created for so much more than that.

Let’s take a look at the characters in our reading today. We have Jesus and his disciples returning to Bethany (which we already know is unsafe territory for him right now). We have Lazarus with his two sisters, Martha and Mary. Jesus was the guest of honor at what appears to be a “thank you” dinner for bringing Lazarus back to life. Although a dinner would never be sufficient thanks for something so grand. We also have an unnamed group of people, gawkers I’ll call them, wanting to see Jesus. Even the religious leaders have a bit of a cameo appearance, although not dinner guests.

Did anything in today’s reading surprise you? For me, it was what we learned about Judas. I had not remembered he was a “thief.” Why would you have a thief tending to the expenses of the team? Clearly, he was skimming off the top, according to John. Judas is not a man to be trusted, yet Jesus kept him close. We have heard “keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” Perhaps that is where this saying originated?

We should really focus on the extravagance of Mary’s action with the perfume. Judas was right, it was expensive. It seemed odd that she would “waste” it all on Jesus’ dirty feet. The scene is quite intimate with the wiping of her hair and such. Foot washings were common because of the use of sandals on dusty  terrain. The host would provide water and the guests would wash their own feet. In a wealthier home, there would be servants who would wash your feet.  Mary used an aromatic herb called nard. It’s a musky, earthy scent with relaxing and calming qualities.

Jesus’ words seemed almost to be a mumble. I wonder if those present caught the foreshadow of his prediction. By her actions, Mary was preparing him for his burial. The statement must have seemed absurd on one hand, but then again, they were aware the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead. Jesus must have known something more than the rest about how close the reality of this statement really was.

To have Jesus in your presence would have been such an honor. I’m afraid those closest to him  had no idea of how they were playing into the history of a new religion. Jesus’ followers would forever look to the examples of these first disciples. We can see in them our own weaknesses perhaps. We can also imagine, for just a moment, that we were there, too.

One day we will be face to face with our Creator and Savior. Jesus came to prepare us for the glorious future he promised. How are you living your life in anticipation of that future? How extravagant is your love?

Let’s pray. Father, I thank you for being open to my cries to you. You continue to provide for me. May my eyes be open and my heart be ready to accept what you have for me. Help me to guard my tongue and my feet so that only you are glorified in my words and deeds. Bless those who are following you yet still have questions and doubts. Give them the answers they need to be fully committed to you, too. May I always give you my best, my all. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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