John 12:1-3 (the message)
Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus’ feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.
I have read this passage many times, but after the last post on Saturday I came across these verses on Sunday morning and they have stayed with me since. “The fragrance of the oils filled the house.” That last line just sticks to my heart…it makes me look at my life…it brings me to prayer. I ask myself what is the fragrance of my life? Does the gratitude in my heart, the worship of my life, fill the atmosphere of the room I am in? Or something else?
Mary was wasted for Jesus. It makes me smile just thinking about it. As I wrote about on the last post, she endured quite a hardship with her brother’s death. And not only his death, but the fact that for a few days she must have wondered why Jesus had let it happen…she must have struggled in so many ways. But in time, in a matter of days, she would see the glory of God…she would be a part of an amazing miracle that gave her not only her brother but more of Jesus. Which, really, is the point of life. So, I see this picture in my mind: Jesus coming over to have dinner with Lazarus, Martha and Mary. His disciples accompany Him and as they are sitting around the table Mary comes in with these very expensive oils. We don’t necessarily grasp the immensity of what she did. I have heard many times Pastors and Speakers describe those oils as probably her dowry. She was a woman and those expensive oils would have been precious because they were insurance for her future. But Mary, who had in the past taken the time to sit at His feet, is now completely wasted over Jesus. She is overcome. She is broken. She is amazed…but not satisfied.
As I write this I sense in my heart there might be those who read this post and those last words above just don’t quite add up. Maybe it’s hard to understand what I mean by saying Mary is wasted over Jesus…overcome…broken. See, Jesus has gone from a person she admired and probably even respected as “Savior” to a man who is everything to her. In Mary’s world, Jesus is no longer the great Prophet performing miracles. He is no longer even a man “from God” who has something important to say. Jesus is no longer just a mystery, a representation of God or a controversial figure. Jesus is no longer someone who makes her feel special because He has been in her home. It’s no longer about her at all, really. Her thoughts, needs and questions have been swallowed up in her hunger to worship Him. To find her place at His feet, but not for what she might receive. This time for what she wants to give. I believe that the measure of faith and love Mary had for Jesus prior to Lazarus’ resurrection exploded afterward. I believe she just couldn’t get over it. Couldn’t get over Jesus. Couldn’t get over the fact that His love and power invaded her personal life the way it did. I think when Jesus gave Mary “new grounds” to believe that day it ruined the old Mary. Smile…
So now, Mary is pouring out her future on the feet of Jesus. I don’t know that she really understood that Jesus would be buried in a matter of days. Even the disciples couldn’t really grasp all of the foreshadowing Jesus gave them of the crucifixion to come. But Mary was so taken with Jesus, the supernatural love of God, that she gave all of herself…and in so doing the fragrance of her giving filled the room. Her worship filled the room. Her belief filled the room. Her gratitude filled the room. Her love filled the room. Her willingness to be ruined and wasted…her shattered pride and future placed on the altar of His feet. Mary was compelled to give what she had, all of herself, with abandon. I can only imagine the overwhelming joy, so indescribable, that filled her in return. Mary would follow Jesus through death, resurrection and His return to Heaven right into the upper room where she waited on the gift of the Holy Spirit to fill her as described in Acts chapter 2. Mary’s old life…her old plans…her old way of thinking and acting had been turned upside down by the reality of Jesus. I mean really! Here I am in 2010 oceans away from the ground she walked writing about her. See, I sense this flicker of understanding…oh, it’s only a flicker but it stirs me to worship and pray…to realize that being wasted and ruined for Jesus only comes in an intimate collision with Him. We won’t live this kind of life, get to experience this kind of joy, based on knowing Him from a distance. Ahhh…to be one of the minority who will walk down the dusty road of hardship in spite of our emotions to be with Him…to be one who would grow determined to know the One who raises men from the dead…to be a man or woman who would not be satisfied. Amazed, yes, but never satisfied.
This is my prayer this morning. I am quite amazed at how God has moved and worked in my life. So amazed that I see the inherent danger to become satisfied…so I ask my Jesus to keep me from satisfaction. I believe if Mary had become satisfied with the depth to which she knew Jesus the oils would have stayed in the jar. If Mary had been truly amazed but then lacked the vision to see even more of Jesus she would have settled for what she had and her story would have stopped with amazed gratitude. But for Mary, watching her brother walk out of a tomb only set the flame in her heart for Jesus to a blazing inferno. Experiencing the love and provision of God is for so much more than our needs being met. See, when we have the idea that it’s all about us we become thankful for a while, perhaps amazed, but then we revert back to our previous mentality of focusing on the next thing we need from Him. My heart cries out for something more. I pray that yours does, as well. I am deeply grateful for what Jesus had done in my life…my healed heart, my healed marriage, my beautiful family intact, God-dreams budding in my life and His presence and provision every step of the way. And yet…
As beautiful and wonderful as family and dreams are, they are not Jesus. His work in my life amazes me as I learn to yield to His leading, but His work doesn’t satisfy my soul. Really. I have reached a season of amazing harvest in some ways…truly amazed to see where He has brought me from…and surprisingly I find that it does not fill me completely. It does not touch me or strengthen me. Oh, with tears in my eyes I tell you the harvest, the work of God, in our lives is not meant to be the end of our story. It’s meant to spur us on to have more of Jesus. The more we have of Him, the more ruined we are willing to become for Jesus, the more it impacts others. Experiencing the work of Jesus in our lives is not the same as experiencing Him.
If you read this today and you have a knowledge and belief in Jesus, but you know in your heart that the idea of being wasted for Jesus is quite foreign to you, then I pray you will take the time to sit quietly and ask Him to speak into your heart. Whatever need you have…physical, marital, financial, emotional…you may be amazed to follow Him to new grounds and see what He can do, but a met need will not fill you and touch your life like the Need-Meeter Himself. Perhaps you would be willing to ask yourself, as I did, what kind of fragrance does my life give? Does my lifestyle of worship for the Lover of my soul fill the room when I’m in it or do others breathe in the residue of my bitterness, offense, despair, selfishness, insecurity or shame?
You can read on in chapter 12 and see that some of the disciples didn’t like Mary wasting her expensive oils on Jesus. They thought of it as a “waste” in the sense of a worthless act of giving away. But Mary’s wastefulness was the kind where you spare nothing in worship for Jesus…because you have seen the amazing and yet instead of being satisfied with what you saw it causes the love in your heart to burn hotter still. Your life begins to change focus from the needs you want met to being with the One who meets them. And whatever we focus on, wherever our passion lies, will be the fragrance our lives give off to everyone we meet.
Certainly our lives are a complex mixture of inward struggles and conflicts…but on this journey I reached a point where “normal” was no longer good enough. I don’t want to live inside of mediocre with my relationship with Christ. How could I really know and serve a God who created everything I see…who raised Lazarus from death… a God who let those He created nail His bleeding and torn body to a wooden post while they made fun of Him and spit on Him…how could I think I really know Him and serve Him and it not change everything? How could I stay the same after Jesus wiped the grime and filth from my soul with His kind hand…How could I not lose myself to this Man who enabled me to endure and then to triumph when I didn’t deserve His help…How could I resist Him once I knew what His love was really like? I can only ask Jesus to continue to change me, open my eyes to see Him, my ears to hear Him, my heart to love like His. In the end I want to live a wasted life like Mary…pouring out on Him all I have and letting the fire burn brighter so others may warm themselves by His love and see more clearly who He is.
Oh I am more than amazed…but I am not satisfied.