Saturday, March 16, 2013

Getting Jesus

She showed no restraint. She didn’t hold back. She put it all out there. Without provocation, she opened a jar of perfume that was worth more than a common laborer earned in a year. And she poured it on… feet! Not just a little bit, but all of it. Then she let down her hair like a woman with no sense of pride or propriety and she dried those feet with her hair. It was too much. She was too much.

Of course the other dinner guests were taken aback by her behavior. She embarrassed herself and everyone in the house.  They were all wondering how she could be so inappropriate. Well, all except the one whose feet she had anointed. He actually seemed to praise her for it. Was he just being kind, or was it possible that this woman others saw as either crazy or clueless was really the only person at dinner that night who got Jesus?
Her name was Mary. She was the one who often sat at Jesus’ feet and took in every word he taught, much to the dismay of her sister Martha, who was always scurrying about serving all her guests. Jesus was a frequent guest at their house in Bethany. It was just outside Jerusalem, so a good place to stay while traveling to and from the city. Jesus loved Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. In fact, he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Mary had so many reasons to love Jesus. And she wasn’t about to hold back.

Did Mary know what was about to unfold? Did she know that soon Jesus himself would demonstrate how washing feet is a symbol of love for his closest friends? Did she know that in a few days Jesus would need to be anointed for his burial? Or did she simply know that no genuine act of love is ever too much?
It’s scary to let love get the best of you like that. Few of us want to get caught going overboard, even for the sake of someone we care about. Love needs to be carefully measured in a balanced, reciprocal manner. Like gift-giving at Christmas. You don’t want to give someone a $100 gift and then have them give you a $10 gift. It’s embarrassing for everyone involved.  Often when we are given too much we’ll respond, “You shouldn’t have”, and we really mean it. You shouldn’t have given so much. It makes us uncomfortable.

That’s the world we live in, isn’t it? Extravagant love is hard to accept. What do you do with a love that doesn’t know when to quit, filling your cup to overflowing? What do you do with a love that goes overboard, feeding over 5,000 hungry people and then leaves you scrounging everywhere for enough baskets to store the leftovers? What do you do with a love that spares no expense, by turning water into massive jars of the best wine you ever tasted? What do you do with a love that empties itself completely on a cross? What do you do with a love like that? It’s too much!
Mary knew she had received extravagant, over-the-top, no-holding-back love like that. And she welcomed the opportunity to give as she had received. Until we can learn to do the same, I wonder if we will ever really get Jesus.

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