John 12:1-8 Honouring Jesus as the centre of my life
Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me. John 12:1-8
In this episode, six days before Jesus’ death, Jesus was having supper with the disciples and the two sisters with Lazarus reclining at the table. The setting was not formal but one that was private and intimate. We see Mary (one whom Jesus cast out seven demons) filled with gratitude cherishing Jesus with the sacrifice of her most treasured possession: her perfume. She did not use a fraction of it, but all of it. Mary, being aware of Jesus’ imminent departure, expressed her gratitude with profound devotion and adoration. Contrasting with Mary was Judas who could not understand what all the fuss was about and snubbed at her. Jesus approved of Mary’s expression of love and praised her. Works of charity must necessarily proceed from a foundation of love and gratitude towards God. A believer’s spirituality must originate from the depths of his intimacy with Jesus.
Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.
Mary took from her treasured possession a pound of very expensive perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus wiping with her hair. We observe that Mary’s act was spontaneous being totally immersed in the moment. Mary was not concerned about the extravagant application of the perfume as she wanted so much to show her appreciation for all that Jesus had done for her. I believe Mary’s act of appreciation gave Jesus some degree of comfort that there were at least a few who were truly grateful for His work. It is no wonder that three days after His death, Jesus chose to appear to Mary in His resurrection body as He very well had in mind who He wanted to surprise first.
“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?”
Judas Iscariot who was at that time intending to betray Jesus threw a wet blanket over Mary’s act of devotion implying what she did was a reckless waste of resources. Judas showed a total lack of gratitude for Jesus and respect for Mary. For Judas, it was never about a love relationship with Jesus or with others. He served with selfish motives, he exploited the ministry and his greed was masked in a facet of charity towards the poor.
“Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.”
Jesus insisted in defence of Mary’s act of devotion on letting her anoint Him with her perfume, so that the fragrance would remain throughout His journey to the cross right up to His burial. Jesus also added that Mary did the appropriate thing, for the fragrance became to Jesus comfort and strength to press on at the point of great pain and suffering.
The first foundation of the Christian life is love and gratitude towards Jesus.
A person may appear outwardly spiritual because of his involvement in church, his biblical knowledge or his public acts of charity. However, true spirituality like love between a man and a woman cannot be feigned or manufactured. Its gestures flow from the heart and are at most instances spontaneous and involuntary. If you love someone, you become highly sensitive to his or her feelings and wellbeing.
A person’s spirituality or love for God and people cannot be compensated by a spectacular display of spiritual gifts and supernatural exploits. Some attempt to mask their selfishness by their noble and altruistic acts. The apostle Paul says,
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
The first foundation of spiritual growth is love and gratitude towards Jesus; the One who suffered and died for my wellbeing. Putting non-believers aside, I can safely say that if a believer does not harbour gratitude towards Jesus, he is not ready to show charity towards others or his own family for that matter. Having said, if one expresses gratitude, having received a gift of financial aid from a friend, how much more should a believer display unreserved devotion to the One who gave His life so that he may be saved from eternal condemnation!
Therefore, before a believer indulges in the ministry of charity towards others, let him first consider the depth of his relationship with Jesus, his Saviour. There are many who comes to the church offering cash and help, but will not commit themselves to regular reading and obedience to God’s word, and to fellowship with Him.
Mary’s spirituality was unmistakably authentic when contrasted with that of Martha’s (see Luke 10:23-42). Martha was seen as being industrious and obedient but missing the point: Jesus said to Martha, “you are worried and upset about many things”. Her relationship with Jesus was superficial and reverential at best lacking in depth. Whereas Mary’s utmost concern is fellowship with Jesus as opposed to the work of the kingdom.
Unspeakable joy and indescribable peace comes through intimacy with Christ through His word.
The source of divine peace, passion, wisdom and confidence comes from an intimate communion with Jesus. As a believer communes with Jesus at a level where his spirit merges with the Spirit of Christ, and his soul becomes imbued with the very essence of God. It is here where hurts are healed, past regrets are resolved and fears are released. This process involves daily communion with Christ through His word. The word works in opening the believer’s soul to the penetrating light of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s words serve as golden arrows seeking out insidious ideals, erroneous mindsets that are hardened by hurt and pain. In due time, the believer’s soul begin to take on some semblance of its original glory. An unspeakable joy, an indescribable peace prelude a new reality, a new person and a new purpose. The believer having a foretaste of the fruit of the Spirit keeps him coming back for more.
However, some believers have mistaken the feeling of exhilaration for true spirituality. Their quests for euphoria, carried by misguided ideals, and youthful zeal takes them on a head-on collision with reality. Consequently, many became disappointed having missed out on what was promised or misconstrued by overly zealous church pastors. These believers must come to rediscover what intimacy with Christ is really like. An unspeakable joy, an indescribable peace, an unconditional acceptance without the burden of performance.
Believers honour Christ as the rightful center of their lives as opposed to their ministry calling.
Many believers make the mistake of setting God’s ministry as the vision and call of their life. They begin to make plans towards its fulfillment so much so that Christ is no longer central to their lives (see figure 1). In fact, Christ is relegated to the servile role of helping them fulfill the call to good works. As a result, they become very driven, to the point of aggressiveness in fulfilling ministry objectives; they are likened to zealots who make God an accessory to accomplish their personal aspirations. Many ministers and churches err in making their ministries central rather than the fellowship of Christ. It is no wonder that many lacked the power and the anointing of the Spirit and even their families are deprived of things that their members often enjoy.
But as believers learn to honour Christ as the rightful center of their lives through obedience to His word, the peace of the Spirit will guide them on the path of their calling (see figure 2). A healthy ministry calling must emerge from an intimate relationship with Christ. Without which, they will minister out of their drivenness and insecurity causing hurt to themselves and to the flock. Believers who keep Jesus as their centrality will minister out of the unforced rhythms of grace where signs and wonders become a permanent feature in their endeavours.
Many churchgoers adopt the custom of attending church worship services and asking God to solve their problems without first having a relationship with Him. One will not do that to a fellow human being, much less to God? A Christian life must rightly begin with a realisation of what Jesus had gone through in order to bring us to where we are today. Then, it must necessarily lead to the next question: Having received so great a gift of salvation, what is my appropriate response to honour Jesus? We honour Christ by putting Him as the centrality of our lives, to know Him and to obey His commandments. To worship Him as a church and offer to Him His rightful portion of our tithes and offerings. For those who are serving in various ministries, do not seek the power of the Spirit, but above all seek His face and acquire His passion.
Dear Lord, forgive me for not placing you as the centrality of my life. I am sorry for neglecting to spend quality time with you and to hear your thoughts. I recognise that grace and life comes from You alone and without You I can do nothing. I repent from a life of arrogance and self-reliance. Help me encounter You in a deeper manner. Fill me with Your peace and Your assurance that everything will be alright. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.