What a loaded passage. The passage of Mary and Jesus. Her wiping His feet. Anointing Him. Dirtying her hair. Loving the one most precious to her. In the face of ridiculers. In the face of those who didn’t think Jesus was worth that. To humiliate oneself for another was not acceptable. But Mary didn’t care. She lavishes herself on Jesus. Without apology. As if no one else is in the room. No one else but her and Jesus. Just her and Jesus.
In John chapter 12, we see Jesus coming back to Bethany for a dinner party thrown by Martha.
And we see Mary.
Lavishing her love upon Jesus.
But what’s fascinating about chapter 12 to me, is that Mary was upset with Jesus in chapter 11.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!!” she exclaims to Jesus while falling at His feet.
I can see her now…
…crying aloud, sobbing at His feet, head down, face on the ground, hanging on to His ankles, not letting go, tears streaming, wishing He would have come sooner, wishing He would make her hurt go away.
And Jesus cares…
“Deeply moved and greatly troubled” describes his temperament in verse 33. He weeps with her. Then He acts. He fixes it. He raises Lazarus from the dead in verse 43.
The next time we see Jesus, Mary is at His feet.
What brilliant literary imagery.
We pick it up in John 12:3-7,
“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (he who was about to betray Him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.”
Last time, Mary came to Jesus with tears of disappointment. She didn’t know what to do. She just knew she needed Him. This, time, Mary comes to Jesus with tears of love. She knows that she needs Him and now she knows what to do. She wants to honor Him.
Yet both times, Mary comes to Jesus with the same posture: she falls at His feet.
We see her weeping at Jesus’ feet in weakness and frustration in chapter 11.
We see her anointing Jesus’ feet in weakness and awe in chapter 12.
Weakness is the common denominator.
Mary knows she is weak either way. She knows Jesus is the only one who can do anything for her in both instances. She knows He is Lord.
So she remains humbled at His feet.
Always at His feet.
But now, in chapter 12, something has shifted in Mary’s mind. And we don’t hear her utter a word. We just read about her lavishing herself upon Jesus.
I like to imagine what the scene might have looked like…
…Silence lingers in the room as the party guests sit on the edge of their seats watching…. “What is she doing?” they all whisper under their breath, looking at each other bewildered and confused at her radical display of affection. Mary runs her fingers through her hair, then gathers it as she dips it into the perfume again. Then she wipes her saturated hair on Jesus’ feet, head down, eyes lowered, sitting in the floor. “I’m sorry Lord.” She thinks to herself. “Forgive me for not trusting You. For not thinking you cared about me and my pain. I know You do. And I want you to know I love You. Please know I love You.” And she looks up at Him, hair drenched in perfume, droplets falling onto the floor, her nose overwhelmed by the scent in her hair, eyes burning from the strong liquid trickling down her forehead and into her eyes. Everyone staring at her like she’s a fool. But she doesn’t even notice them. She doesn’t care. She looks into his eyes and He looks back at her. “Please know I love you, Lord. Please know I honor You.” And she bends down again to keep wiping His feet with her hair. A smile on her face from being so close to the one she loves. Her love for Him on display.
There’s something about Mary, isn’t there?
This touches my heart so much because I can feel so often like Jesus just doesn’t understand what I go through…that He can’t possibly know what it feels like…that He’s never going to come through.
But I remember this passage.
And I see Mary’s transformation.
From sobbing in frustration at Jesus’ feet in chapter 11 to pouring out her most precious gift to Him in chapter 12.
And she always wants to be around Jesus. She always needs to be where He is. She always goes to Him. Nothing ever makes her feel like she can’t come to Him.
Mary was changed by Jesus.
I want to be too.
And what Mary does for Jesus is crazy! It really is.
Think about it this way… emptying an ATM of about $25,000 all in Benjamins, making your way to your lover’s house and proceeding to rub their feet with the hundred dollar bills until the point where the money is completely disintegrated, no longer able to use. We don’t use money for this. It’s hyperbole. I mean, I’ve never seen a commercial for “dollar bill skin exfoliation.” But if it would make me all silky soft maybe I’d consider. No, I actually wouldn’t. Because it would be expensive. And I’ve got bills to pay. Mary did too. She had “bills to pay.” She had expenses. And that perfume was the most precious and expensive thing she had. Her rubbing Jesus’ feet with this perfume was like rubbing her entire bank account in dollar bills on his feet until it disintegrated. She didn’t care. She loved him and no amount of money would ever be too much to lavish upon Him.
But Judas didn’t like it.
He thought it was too much.
“Why wasn’t this used for something more practical!” Judas criticized loudly among all the party guests.
As if it was his perfume to begin with!
But Judas’ critique is almost absent from Mary’s awareness. She doesn’t even acknowledge the critique. She keeps wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair. And Jesus deals with Judas. He tells Judas to “leave her alone” and that “she may keep it for the day of my burial” in verse 7. Jesus honored Mary’s gift to him. And Jesus tells them that it actually contributes to preparing Him for what He would soon endure on the cross.
Mary’s burning desire for Jesus in this passage cannot be contained.
She doesn’t care who is in the way.
By gosh, she is going to get to Jesus!
And she’s going to do what she came to do…
…lavish Jesus with her most precious perfume…
…lavish Jesus with her love.
I admire Mary’s heart so much.
I want her heart.
I want to love Jesus so recklessly that no amount of humiliation is humiliating.
It’s worth it.
I want to be in love like that.
Sometimes I get so lonely thinking I have nobody to pour out my love upon. I want a man to love, God. I have so much love to give, Lord. Don’t You want me to love someone? I’ll think.
God is saying now, Natalie, I am that one I want you to love. Love Me. If you want to pour out your heart of love for someone, do it on Me. Lavish yourself on ME! And I will reciprocate your love in the way you’ve always desired.
God, may You be my one love. May we lavish ourselves upon You, Jesus. May You be worth it all.
My heart is so full right now…
Bursting to be poured out…
And this time…
I want to pour it out on Jesus.
Song – Kari Jobe, Look Upon The Lord (Revisited Version)