Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (John 12:1–8)
This is the shocking, self-emptying nature of profound love. In this small frame we see a prophetic echo of how God loves us, as well as a prototype for how to love God—broken and poured out, in full abandon. It’s a scene that does not add up.
Foreshadowing the sacrifice of Jesus mere days away, Mary breaks open her most expensive gift (a sign of his death) and anoints him (a burial ritual he will not be afforded between the cross and tomb). The potent aroma of extravagant love fills the room. Mary beholds the treasure in front of her, and empties her treasure at his feet.
Meanwhile, Judas is doing the math. And his calculations are off. Livid over this undignified and wasteful display, he masks his true intentions behind the vestments of stewardship. Why does Jesus trust the money bag to the thief? It’s not about how much trust Jesus had in Judas, but how much trust he placed in money. He knew it’s power to steal our affection, it’s way of making us miss the treasure. Yes, Judas did his math and ran the numbers. And, in the end, he sold the treasure of heaven for thirty pieces of silver.
In “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” the farmer and poet Wendell Berry wrote, “every day do something that won’t compute.” This is the call of kingdom accounting, the great exchange, the vision to behold the treasure hidden right before our eyes. It challenges us with the provocative question: “What is he worth to you?”
Jesus, you are the Treasure of heaven, broken and poured out in extravagant love. Help me to live a life in reckless response, a life that does not compute. May it look like a waste to some and like worship to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Identify the competing priorities in your life which threaten to steal your affection or attention. How can you recalculate and actively behold the Treasure and live out the extravagant exchange?
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