In John Chapter 12, there is a story about how six days before Passover, Jesus went to the home of his three friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, for a meal. This story perfectly depicts the roles that these three siblings have adopted with Jesus. They each have a certain relationship with Jesus and their relationship is flavored by their unique personalities and approach to the Master.
John relates that Martha was serving and Lazarus was reclining with Jesus. These were usual roles for men and women in those days. And they were usual roles for both Martha and Lazarus. Earlier in the book of John, we saw Martha racing around serving food to a houseful of people, frustrated with her sister who was seemingly not helping her enough. And we saw that Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus by the way Jesus wept before he raised him from the dead.
So Martha is serving and Lazarus is chatting, but Mary is doing something different. She is doing something that no one has ever seen before. Mary takes a pint of pure nard – an expensive perfume worth a year’s wages – and poures it on Jesus’ feet and then wipes his feet with her hair.
Immediately, Judas Iscariot, whom we know betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, speaks up in protest that the perfume was wasted on Jesus. He says that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. This was a man whose hand was always in the till so that’s why he would have wanted to see the perfume sold.
But back to Mary – why did she do such a thing? What prompted her to take expensive perfume and offer it to Jesus along with the humble act of washing his feet with her hair? I think she did it because she had developed a habit – a lifestyle really – of worship and devotion. The only way that she could offer such an extravagant gift is because she had an extravagant love for the Lord. This was a love she had cultivated. It didn’t come overnight. She put herself in the position of allowing herself to be overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus so that she could be an extravagant worshiper.
This should be the goal of every disciple and follower of Jesus. We should be called Lovers of the Most High. We should be addicted to His presence like it’s a drug. People who are addicted to a substance find themselves wanting more and more of the high that comes from that substance. They do things that other people find crazy because they are feeling the high.
Why can’t we become so addicted to the beauty, the majesty and the love of our amazing Savior that we can’t get enough? That we’re driven to have more? That we act in ways that are seem crazy to the world? It would be world-changing if our extraordinary love meant that we give extravagant worship to the One who has our heart, that we give forgiveness and grace extravagantly and that, because we’re intoxicated with love, we overlook insults and release grudges. The world needs to see us pour our love out on Jesus as an expensive perfume that fills our atmosphere with the fragrance of mercy. This is the example that Mary gives us and that is why her story is recorded in the Bible for all of us to read and remember.
Maybe you’re like Martha and you like to serve wherever you go. Whatever club, church or company you are involved in, you find yourself serving those around you. For all of you who are like Martha, serving is good. The church needs people who serve ferociously.
Maybe you are more like Lazarus. You love to be around people. You are a connector. Maybe you bring people together in your home and make them feel comfortable. Maybe you are drawn to people in such a way that you always find yourself surrounded by people and leading people. So for those of you who are like Lazarus, fellowship with people is good. The body of Christ needs each other for support, camaraderie and strength.
But the highest example of Christlikeness is found in Mary. Because of her closeness to Jesus, she had the spiritual perception to discern that something was about to happen to him. She was led by the Spirit to wash his feet as an act of humility and to anoint him as if for burial. And in just a few short days from this dinner with his friends, Jesus himself would don a towel and wash the feet of His disciples. God is really into humility.
So let me ask you: Do you want to be so close to Jesus that you are upset if you are denied time in the Lord’s presence? Do you want to look forward to and plan your times with Him, like you plan other things in your life? Do you want to be so addicted to His presence and hearing Him speak, that you can sense the slightest changes in the atmosphere? This is not just a remote possibility for a select few. This is a reality that is open to each of us if we will simply ASK.
So let’s ask the Lord to take us higher. We don’t have to leave behind those other good characteristics that make us uniquely “us” – the serving, the connecting, the leadership. We just need to ask the Lord to make us addicted to His presence in such a way that nothing else satisfies.
Do you remember the first time you felt God’s Presence in a real way? If it’s been a while since you felt the closeness of His Presence, just ask Him to pour out grace upon you. Remember that it’s His grace that gives us the desire AND ability to know Him intimately.
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
If you have never felt His presence, do you want to? The Lord says that He will always answer the one who calls upon Him. Romans 10:13 says, “Call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.” It’s just that easy. Jesus did the heavy lifting on this one. All we have to do is approach Him in faith believing that He is the Savior, the Son of God and that He died to save and heal us.
11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Dear Lord, I come to You in humility asking You to pour out Your grace on me to want You more, to crave Your presence, and to see You in times of worship. Lord, this world crowds out my higher passions and replaces them with lesser things. I repent for allowing this world to become my chief focus and goal. Everything I see and touch will fade away. But my relationship with You is eternal. Help me to keep my eyes on You and to worship You with abandon. You are worthy of all of my effort, all of my desire, all of my passion and all of my personality. I give You all my love as an offering. Let the depth of my offerings grow and grow with each passing year. I choose to begin to cultivate an extravagant love for You that makes everything in this world look pale in comparison! Amen.