If you had been alive during that first Easter, who would you have been?
Would you have been Peter, bold and brash, defending Jesus in the only way you knew how?
Would you have been John, quiet and steadfast in your heartbreak?
Would you have been one of the women who wiped Jesus’ brow on his agonizing climb to Golgotha, showing love even as your hopes crumbled?
Would you have been Thomas, asking for proof yet keeping a sliver of belief alive?
I’m not sure who I would have been. I like to think I’d cling to hope even before I could see how everything unfolded, but I’m not sure. I’m much better at believing in miracles in retrospect, after I have the whole picture.
But it’s easy to identify the person I would like to be. I want to be Mary, who poured out her perfume on Jesus’ feet.
Just before he died, Jesus went to the home of his friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. And there, Mary enacted a most extravagant gesture of love. Here’s the story:
Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.
You might think everyone around would have been impressed by Mary’s act of generosity. Instead, she was judged for being wasteful.
Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray [Jesus], said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.”
According to some scholars, this jar of perfume was likely Mary’s dowry—what would have been given to a suitor to pay the bride price. The perfume was essentially her past and her future . . . and she lavished it on an uncredentialed rabbi from a backwoods town.
Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Sometimes I find myself assuming that Jesus would have been ultra-practical—frugal, even. “Waste not; want not”—that’s in the Bible somewhere, right? Somewhere near “God helps those who help themselves”?
But to my surprise, Jesus didn’t chastise Mary over the apparent wastefulness of her act. He didn’t tell her she should have focused on her savings account or reserved some her retirement. He didn’t even criticize her for not giving to charity.
He told her that her lavish devotion, her extravagant love, was beautiful.
And this Holy Week I wonder: What am I willing to “waste” on God and the people he’s given me to love?
Am I so concerned about being careful and judicious and economical that I fail to shower my love in unpractical ways?
What would it look like for us to show extravagant, “wasteful” love this week?
- Maybe extravagant love looks like scrapping our to-do list and doing some leisurely Bible reading instead.
- Maybe extravagant love looks like “wasting” the afternoon playing with your favorite little person, even if the proof isn’t captured on Facebook or Instagram.
- Maybe extravagant love looks like doing something for someone who will never be able to pay you back or properly thank you.
- Maybe extravagant love looks like “wasting” the morning by going on a walk and taking in the world God made.
Because here’s what I think—and I have a hunch Mary would agree: If it’s real love, it’s never wasted.