Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”
John 12: 3-8
Before what I like to call The Crash of 2013, that is the worst flare up of my entire history, I was a nanny. I loved my job. I love people and that includes the little ones. Over the years of being a nanny I have worked with my fair share of kids. It has been one of the biggest blessings of my life, getting to invest into a child. What can I say, these kids just take my heart and squeeze it for all it is and before I know it, I’m ok with their squeezing. Because they are worth it. These kids, in their tantrums and smiles, rebellion and cuddles, they just make me want to invest deeper. There is something so precious about a child. I am convinced one of the smartest things God ever created was the bubbling laugh of children. If their gurgling fountain of joy doesn’t at least bring a smile to your face, then you are one definite scrooge. To me, it is perfection.
And so, when I got the opportunity to babysit a family I haven’t seen since last year, I jumped at the chance. And I didn’t realize how much I had missed them until I saw them. Twin six year olds who have grown so much I threatened to put them in Tupperware until the next time I saw them in order to preserve them. As soon as I got there, all things fun began. We were running around the house, playing hide and seek, reading stories, having pow-wows, and of course, laughing to our hearts content. It was the best afternoon. And so, when little Anna Kate came over to me midway through, grabbed my hand and pulled me down to her level, I couldn’t help but oblige. She laughed, rolled her head around and then said, “Miss Bethany, you know what?”
“No ma’am, What?” I said with a smile I could only hope matched hers.
“I like it better when you’re here.” And then she was off. Running and giggling, leaving me to sit in the beauty of being appreciated, loved, wanted.
And I can’t help but think: is this how He feels when we tell Him how much we enjoy Him? I can only imagine.
I go back to the book I love so much, the book written by the one whom Jesus loved, the book of John. That is the book that proves so much of what I want to say. We all love affirmation. We love being loved, being a part of someone else’s heart. And we see this so clearly in the life of John. John had the opportunity to describe himself as many things. He could have proved how wise or intellectual he was as the disciple of Jesus. Or he could have proved how much authority he had in the inner circle of Christianity as a friend of Jesus. He could have promoted himself as an expert on the genuine workings of God as an eye witness to the miracles of Jesus. But none of this held any importance for him. Instead, for John, the most important thing to promote about who he was was that he was the one whom Jesus loved.
And so when I go back to that book, the one that was written with an emphasis on love, I can’t help but think of that story of Mary. Another dear friend of Jesus. I hope one day I can have the heart of this Mary. Mary, who lived in the moment. Mary, who knew what she had when she had it and soaked in every moment she got. Mary, who knew who she was without Jesus and made sure she never went back to that girl. This Mary, took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. Can you imagine such a moment. A moment of precious innocence, when Mary, seeing who she was with, told her Lord Jesus, how much He meant to her. And Jesus recognized her words through action. For when she is criticized by one of Jesus’ own disciples, Jesus replies and tells him to let her alone. And in another version of the story, this time told by Luke, we see more. For in this version Jesus says just how much her attention meant to Him. Do you see this woman, he says, for I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she since the time I came in has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil but she anointed my feet with perfume.
It matters. Affirmation matters. Worship matters. God needs nothing from us. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t want it. And just as much as my heart swelled with sweet Anna Kate telling me how much I mattered to her, so our Lord God loves it when we do the same for Him. The idea that I could do something that would give Him pleasure gives me chills. And it gives me joy. But there is more.
Because after she anointed His feet, those disciples, and the others in the room, they couldn’t have ignored or forgotten the scene even if they had tried. They were surrounded by her offering. That offering wasn’t just in her heart for the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil; it was in the air. Because true, genuine, selfless worship, it is fragrant. And it fills our hearts, and it fills others, and it spreads all through the rooms. I don’t know if I’ve ever worshiped in a way that was fragrant. I don’t know if I’ve ever worshiped in a way that was so pure, just like this pure nard, just like sweet Anna Kate’s one sentence, that it filled the room and caught everyone’s attention. I just don’t know if I have, but the idea is so beautiful, it makes me rethink all my worship.
So let us come. Let us bring our offering, our worship. Let us bathe the feet of our Lord in our tears. Let our offering fill the house, let it be filled with the fragrance of holy oil.