Today it is Holy Wednesday – on Palm Sunday Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, Hosannas ringing in the air. Monday took him back into Jerusalem into the temple where he overturned the tables, threw out the money changers and challenged the heart of the religious system. Tuesday was a day for teaching and wisdom as well as challenging those who would try and entrap him.
Holy Wednesday sees Jesus in the quietness of the village of Bethany at the home of Simon having a meal. I have focused on the account in Matthew 26:6-13
Our host for the meal is identified as Simon the Leper, while I acknowledge some translation issues it could well be that Simon once suffering with leprosy had been healed by Jesus, others were present (including according to John’s gospel Jesus friend Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead.) After the meal Jesus is reclining and a woman unnamed in Matthew’s gospel but named by John as Mary sister of Lazarus shows her love and respect for Jesus with this incredible act of anointing.
Incredible because of the cost of the perfume. A woman would have carried with her such perfume in a jar or vial, the perfume would have been concentrated so just one drop would perfume the whole body. One drop at a time the perfume may have lasted 40 years, yet the woman (Mary) pours the whole jar in this act of devotion, she gives probably the most costly thing she owns in love for Jesus.
The disciples are less than impressed, what a waste of money – this costs a years wages – this could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus responds directly to the disciples shock and concern: firstly the poor will always be with them; secondly she prepares him for burial and then thirdly and most powerfully that this act of love and devotion would never be forgotten – this story would always be told.
Extravagance in love will never stop to count the cost, to check if it can afford it or not, love does not pour out all it can, it pours out all it has. Love has a way of find the opportunity, of seizing the day and the moment before it is too late.
Love pours into the world a fragrance that can not be forgotten by time, loves legacy is permanent. In John’s gospel account we are told that the smell filled the whole house, just think if one drop perfumes the body one Jar would be incredible and the fragrance in the air for days.
Now is a time for love, here in Holy week, here in the midst of Coronavirus Lockdown. If nothing done in Jesus name is wasted or forgotten, what does it mean for each of us to take the cap off of our precious alabaster jar and pour out what we have in Jesus name?
If there is an extravagance in love what does this say to us as a church as we journey on, how do we show that extravagant love to the communities and world around us in Jesus name?
I share with you a modern hymn that you may not be familiar with but you know the tune and the words are perfect. It is by Ken Bible and is sung to Rowland Prichard’s Hydrofoil (the tune for Love Divine, All Loves Excelling). I leave it with you.
Lavish love, abundant beauty,
Gracious gifts for heart and hand,
Life that fills the soul and senses?
All burst forth at Your command.
Lord, our Lord, Eternal Father,
Great Creator, God and Friend,
Boundless power gave full expression
To Your love which knows no end.
Who am I that You should love me,
Meet my every need from birth?
Why invest Yourself so fully
In a creature made of earth?
In Your loving heart You planned me,
Fashioned me with greatest care;
Through my soul You breathed Your Spirit,
Planted Your own image there.
I am Yours, Eternal Father,
All my body, mind, and heart.
Take and use me to Your glory,
Form Yourself in every part.
Lord, Your love brings joy and gladness
Flowing forth within my soul.
May my very breath and being
Rise to You, their source and goal.*
You friend and Vicar
*Ken Bible, Words © 1986 by Word Music.