February 21, 2016

Outlandish love

And while (Jesus) was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.

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.” (Mark 14:3–9)

Today’s devotional reading poses the question: Have I ever produced pleasure in the heart of the Lord Jesus like Mary produced?

People in love are not always sensible or practical. They do things for the one they love that might look silly or a waste of effort, time, and money — like Mary did. The ointment she poured on Jesus was almost a year’s wages for a laborer. Today, that would be between $20,000 and $50,000, maybe more. A wealthy person might easily give away that much, but for Mary, this was a sacrifice.

Yet this incident isn’t about money. It is about the devotion Mary had for Jesus, and her willingness to be carried away by that devotion and express her love in total abandonment. Jesus was not pointing to what she gave but why she did it.

Chambers says being abandoned to God is of more value than personal holiness because personal holiness tends to put my focus on myself. I might be wondering how I should walk and talk and look. That focus could make me fearful of offending Jesus — instead of just loving Him.

Instead of being concerned that my life has value and that I must be “doing something for God” I should simply make up my mind that I am nothing (which is true) and always remember that being valuable to God is more about our relationship that my usefulness to Him.

Jesus is pleased with an impulsive act of devotion, practical or not. It could be ‘dancing with a mop’ (see yesterday’s post) or it could be bursting into praise on a crowded beach, or in His name hugging a homeless person whom others think needs a bath far more than affection.

This kind of spontaneity is like the love of a child. He brings dandelions to mom, and lemonade to dad, smiles at the grouch next door, and hugs his bossy sister. It is the kind of loving action that makes Jesus smile — and when He smiles, I feel the warmth of His pleasure.

That last image reminded me that the most affectionate and giving children do not exhaust themselves in the process. When they are tired, they fall asleep, sometimes in the least likely places. Jesus refueled on a mountain and away from the crowds. Praying does that, but I’ve been really tired. Care-giving is exhausting. Yesterday I crashed like a child, curled up on a sofa in front of a loud TV and slept for an hour. I didn’t move and had marks everywhere from my hands and clothes. Today, it was the same – only two hours. Friends have told me to make sure to take care of the care-giver and when I woke up, I felt like a little kid — refreshed instead of guilty for having such a long nap in the middle of the day.

Later, my sister called. My brother-in-law died today. This was not a surprise. We know that he is with Jesus (absent from the body and present with the Lord), and while we do not grieve as others who are without that hope, we still feel a loss.

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