Daily Devotion

THURSday, APRIL 9, 2020


Mark 14: Listen here  

Mark 14:9 “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

It is one of the most beautiful scenes in the Gospels. And, like the feeding of the 5,000, it is a story all four Gospel writers tell. Jesus was in Bethany, about six miles from Jerusalem just on the other side of the Mount of Olives. He was reclining at a table in the home of a man named “Simon the Leper,” though I suspect his name was about to be changed to “Simon who used to be a Leper.” 

A woman came and did something so extraordinary that Jesus said as long as we keep telling His story, we will also tell hers. Mark does not tell us her name. John’s Gospel tells us (11:2) she is Mary, the sister of Lazarus who sat at Jesus’ feet with the other disciples. I think Mary was overcome by the grace Jesus brought into her life. Grace to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him. I wonder if, while sitting there at His feet, this idea was born? Grace to have a provider in her life, for without Lazarus she faced a certain and horrible future. Grace to be treated with dignity in front of those who had seen her as less than, least of these. 

She came up with an extravagant plan. I suspect the other disciples only realized what was happening when the pungent aroma overwhelmed them. She was pouring out nard. Nard! Nard made from the “nadala” plant which grows in the mountains of Nepal and the Himalayas of China. The plant grows about 3 feet tall and produces beautiful, pink, bell-shaped flowers. Underground stems of the plant are crushed and distilled into an essential oil which was carried by caravan over a period of months to Israel and on to Rome via the port at Caesarea Maritima. Nard was more valuable than gold; a single drop used in the nightly perfume of the wealthiest citizens of Rome. 

But she did not bring a dropper. With tears in her eyes and joy in her heart, she poured a year’s wages on Jesus’ feet. Not drizzling it, mind you, but pouring it; ladling it. So that the smell of nard filled the room and overpowered the olfactory senses of everyone within a block. In that wonderful moment, she gave all she had to Jesus. And she knew, what she gave was not too much, but too little. For what gift is great enough to repay salvation?

Jesus came to be Israel’s Messiah, which means the “anointed king.” Make no mistake: this is His anointing. Did she know she was anointing the Messiah? What an incredible irony: a woman, not a priest or an authorized prophet, anointed Jesus in the home of a leper. 

And Jesus said we would forever tell her story. And we must! What an incredible gift: to do something for Jesus who has done everything for us. Don’t miss this part: this woman has been celebrated through the centuries, and not without cause, for cutting through male objections on one hand and male plots on the other. She was a woman who got it right while the men all around her are having adventures in missing the point. 

How great would it have been to be able to do something for Jesus in this Holy and harrowing week?

The truth is, there will be ways of demonstrating our thanksgiving in the days ahead. We do not yet know what all of them are, but we know this: when our God calls we are ready – even eager – to be used in a mighty way. And there are many, mighty ways: giving sacrificially to His church, muring ourselves into the lives of others by teaching a child the story of Jesus in Scripture or teaching adults those same stories again, or caring for someone as much as God has cared for us. 

Nothing God asks of us is too small, and nothing God asks of us is too great. For in these days wherein our regular patterns have been eradicated and our wants go wanting, we are learning (again), “My God will supply all of your needs through His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

And in every act of lavish generosity; in each instance of gratitude made tangible, what we are really doing is pouring oil on the feet of Jesus. Giving a gift which is not too large, but too small. For what could we give that might be equal to what we have been given? What gift is great enough to repay salvation?