John 12.1-8 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Give, not to get, but simply to celebrate
There is a story about a little church that hired some new pastors, who were very much driven on following God no matter what and reaching a community with hope. One day one of the church members was driving by a huge piece of land a little way outside of town. The pastors and the people felt that it was time to build a church, a place that the community could come together, no matter who they were and find peace and hope. The problem was that this church did not have a huge membership, so coming up with the money for this piece of land was going to be a challenge. The story goes that the small group of people sacrificed greatly in order to buy this land, some even going so far as to sell their wedding rings and family heirlooms to add to the cause. With this money, a whole lot of prayer, and an even greater amount of God, this little church was able to acquire the land and build a beautiful place that the community could come and has been coming for 24 years now. They named this place Salem Fields Community Church, and those folks that sacrificed those many years ago, have helped thousands upon thousands to meet Jesus Christ as savior on their road. However, way back at the beginning, there were many who thought these people were crazy, and that all the money raised could have been used right in the building they were in. They were told that it was a waste, and unnecessary, and that they should think of what they could do immediately with all that money and sacrifice. However, these pastors and people believed that all that God had given them was worth any amount of sacrifice to just say “Thank you, Lord” and to share that with others who needed to meet him.
Mary had a lot to be thankful for, including her personal healing and forgiveness at the hands of Jesus, the lesson from Jesus that shook her out of her old religious teaching, and raising her brother from the dead. Mary just wanted to thank Jesus in the most extravagant way she could, because I believe she felt that Jesus had lavished extravagant love for her and her family. As usual, there is always a naysayer in the bunch, which happened to be Judas Iscariot. Luke tells us that he was a thief, but it appeared that no one knew that at the time. Either way, Judas speaks up to cry foul and most likely true pain, because he wouldn’t be able to steal a bit of that money, which 300 days wages, a ton of money! Maybe Judas also wanted to appear caring and focused on good things, instead of his true motive. Well, Jesus quickly shut Judas down with a simple truth. In essence Jesus told Judas that there would always be people to help, but when someone wants to simply worship, simply give in thanks to God for all he has done, let them and stay out of it. “It’s between me and her, Judas, stay out of it” (my paraphrase), but maybe even deeper, “Judas, if you really cared at all for what I have given and for what I am about to give, you would celebrate me also”. Sometimes our gifts of thanks to God do not make sense to others, and they don’t have to as long as they are born out of a heart of thanksgiving and praise. Sometimes, however, there is something we really need to give, but we are holding on, Let Go.
On today’s road: As you walk down the road with Jesus there will always be people questioning your journey. Many of them will tell you that you might be walking past people and places that need you, and maybe you want to stop, but for some reason Jesus keeps walking. Jesus guides us to exactly where we need to be if we keep walking. There are some people who tell us that our giving of thanks in our resources is crazy and a foolish waste when we could just use it for something tangible. Many of these people cannot see that we are walking along with Jesus and do not know that we are simply giving in gratitude for all Jesus has done for us, Keep Walking. It might be easy to get distracted especially when we are weighed down with things we need not carry, let them go and Keep Walking. The greatest sacrifice is walking right next to you, Celebrate and Keep Walking.