Posted by: Jo | July 5, 2013

A Wildly Extravagant Gift

“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:3)

image A few weeks ago one of my friends was telling me an interesting story about an occurrence at her church. She and several other ladies are in charge of setting up the altar for communion and part of their duties is to arrange the flowers for the Sunday service. Often members of the church wish to donate and dedicate the flowers for a special day. This could be to acknowledge an anniversary of a loved one’s death. The group was startled to receive a request from a man who wanted to honour his father’s passing from the year before. The request was not startling, but the amount of money the son wanted to give for the flowers was. He wanted $250 spent. There was much muttering amongst the ladies. Way too much money just for flowers. We could spend that money on something useful for the church. Why spend all that money? What dreadful extravagance!

As I was listening to my friend I suddenly thought of another extravagant gift that elicited similar responses. In the gospel of John we read where Mary decided to give Jesus a wildly extravagant gift in the form of expensive perfume poured out as an anointing upon his feet. We are told that perhaps this pure nard (as it was) was worth about a year’s wages. Her act caused a similar reaction, to those watching, to that of the ladies in my friend’s story. In the Mark version we read;

“Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor…” (Mark 14:4 – 5)

Later, as I was intrigued by my friend’s story, I asked her what the outcome was and what decision had been made about the flowers. She told me that the ladies, despite their reservations, had gone ahead and bought the flowers. Every vase available was used. Others had to be borrowed, the church was overflowing with flowers in every nook and cranny, their fragrance filling the church. Again I thought of the story of Jesus’ anointing;

“…And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:3)

But what was the most telling part of this story came during the service as when it was announced who and why the church was filled with flowers a lady was heard to remark;

“Oh how this son must have loved his father.”

She saw the love that prompted the gift rather than the cost.image

When my Home Group was studying this story of Jesus’ anointing, one of the questions was;

What would have been your reaction if you had been there and witnessed this anointing?

One of our members answered, “I would have immediately thought, oh, how she loves Jesus.”

There is no counting of cost when love motivates the gift, so perhaps this is why this beautiful story has been preserved in Scripture. Pure love does not count the cost.

How do we relate to this story in our own lives? We have been given the most wildly extravagant gift known to mankind;

imageFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

When we realise the generous nature of divine love we are more willing to be generous with our own love towards others, not counting the cost which is often not money but maybe, our time, our patience, our forgiveness, our understanding, our compassion, our friendship, our unconditional love and then others will see and remark, “Oh how they love Jesus.”

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

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