Tag Archives: anointing for burial

Applecart Upset

7 Jul

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected…  John 12:4

Wherever Jesus went he upset the applecart of tradition and man-made religion.  He turned over extortioners’ tables in the temple twice.  He said a man must be born again to enter the Kingdom.  Common fisherman were His chosen disciples.  Jesus forgave sins, healed on the Sabbath, and didn’t answer the Pharisees’ questions the way they wanted.

Jesus took on the religious legalism that prevented an authentic relationship with the Father.  Jesus knew what He was doing in each case and how much of a stir His actions and words would cause.

His good friend’s sister, Mary, probably didn’t stop to think how disturbing her actions were.  Mary was simply loving her Lord, but her actions also sent shock waves through that same controlling establishment.

The Pharisees and other religious leaders had carefully arranged the minutia of Jewish life to honor God, and they were vigilant in protecting their meticulous masterpiece.  Their perfectly formed apples made an impressively symmetrical pyramid within a solid cart.  Jesus upset such carts on purpose.  Mary obliviously knocked them over in her hurry to fall at Jesus’ feet.

Every time Mary’s story is told in Scripture she challenges the accepted status quo.

  • When Jesus and His followers came to dinner, Mary sat at His feet listening to Him teach.  Women belonged in the kitchen (and probably barefoot and pregnant, too!), not at the feet of a rabbi.  Martha named the social faux pas elephant in the room, and Jesus corrected Martha’s correction.  Everyone in the room got hit with apples exploding off the well-ordered cart because of Mary’s devotion to Jesus.
  • After Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus died, their friends consoling Mary assumed that she was going to weep at his tomb when she left abruptly.  Instead, she ran to fall at the feet of her Lord who had asked for her and the gathering crowd saw her devotion.  Through her sobs she cried: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  At first it sounds as if she chastised Him for taking too long, but she deeply moved Jesus’ spirit.  Her words were as much a confession of faith that Jesus was God as they were a distraught elegy of her love for her brother.
  • While Jesus ate with His disciples, Mary anointed his feet with pure nard in a room where only men were welcome with perfume that stank so bad it surely ruined their appetites.  Judas, disgusted by her actions, missed her devotion, complaining of the obvious waste.  Again, Jesus admonished propriety and commended Mary’s actions and intentions.

Mary’s love for Jesus encourages me.  I don’t have to think about the implications of my worship if my heart desires only Him.  Whether others are stirred up to follow Him more closely because of my devotion to Him is His business, not mine.

in everything

in everything i am,

and every breath i take

in everything i do,

and every word i say

.

everywhere i go,

every single day

in everyone i see,

and every prayer i pray

.

be the center of it all

let me hear Your gentle call

to give myself

completely fall down before You

.

i wonder at Your love

that beckons me to stay

in spite of what i ‘ve done

in going my own way

.

You know my wand’ring heart

is longing to obey

but there’s no good in me,

so at Your feet i lay

.

be the center of it all

let me hear Your gentle call

to give myself

completely fall down before You

(c) 2004 Cathy Howie

———————

Ready for Sunday

Am I worshiping Jesus everywhere and in all things, or just on Sunday morning?

When others worship Him with forms or postures different than mine, am I encouraged by their devotion?  Or critical?

Oh God, you know the answer to these questions and my heart better than I do.  Thank-you for Mary’s example.  Enable my worship to be pure and fit for the King of kings and Lord of my life.

Precious Pouring

30 Jun

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. John 12:3

My Grandpa worked for the Grand Trunk Railroad, but also kept a farm in rural Michigan.

I “helped” with chores when we visited. Spilling cat food into the feed bowls, throwing hay (almost) into the feed troughs for the milk cows, and tossing vegetable scraps from Grandma’s slop bucket to the tiny goat kids probably made more work for him and my aunt.  But I loved it.

Once the cows were turned back out to graze in the pasture, I disappeared while the two of them scooped the cow pies out of the manure trenches into wheel barrows to be dumped behind the barn.

Chores done, we headed for the house and Grandma’s cooking.  The two of them left their barn clothes and boots in the back room.  I didn’t have any barn clothes, so I whizzed through the kitchen, past the lunch table on my way to the bathroom to wash my hands.  “Whew!  Who brought the barn into the house?”  Grandma chided, looking right at me.

I couldn’t smell a thing, so I just shrugged innocently.  More than once there was “barn” caked to my feet that banished me to the pump under the windmill until my shoes were manure-free.  The barn smell infused in my clothes and hair stuck with me, however, like Pig-pen’s dust cloud.

———————

The last time Mary of Bethany saw Jesus, he had raised her brother from the dead.  She knew Jesus was from God, but when her trembling fingers ripped the grave clothes that bound her brother; when they embraced in joy– and fear, Mary knew her beloved Rabbi was God.

Now she was waiting for him while Martha (as usual) cooked a feast.  He arrived, and people (stinking men!) closed around him, asking the Rabbi questions and hoping to be the one seated next to him during the meal.  Trying to get near him, and yet also waiting patiently, she held her jar of nard, grateful she had it to give.

She had anguished over anointing Lazarus with it before he died.  How could she withhold her most precious possession from the brother she loved so deeply?  And yet, she had.  (What a waste that would have been!  He was only dead for a few days!)  When she heard that Jesus was on His way to Bethany, she knew instantly how she would greet him.  She would not be empty-handed this time.  And so she waited for the opportunity.

After the women brought out the food, the men settled down to their meal.  Now was the time.  No one paid attention to her– until she broke the vessel open.  The perfume spilled out, splashing everywhere.  To keep as much as she could on his feet, she used her hair and rubbed the rich perfumed oil into their cracks and calluses.

Judas, especially was incensed.  “What a waste!” he spat in her direction.  The look Jesus gave Mary made every drop worth it.  The beauty of His presence mingled with the fragrance and chased everything foul out of the room.

She poured out the best she had, holding back nothing, on her Lord who would soon pour out the most precious of all earthly substances for His creation.

The nard quickly soaked into everything it touched – Jesus’ skin and the hem of his robe, the floor, Mary’s hair, hands, and clothes. The scent of the nard would be unmistakable for several days causing all those at the dinner to remember Mary’s act of devotion.  Jesus would smell the nard as he walked toward the most difficult week anyone has ever experienced.  Perhaps he could still smell the nard when he fell as we carried his cross through Jerusalem.  Maybe even those who hammered the spike into Jesus’ hands and feet smelled the perfume.

Since nard was used for burial anointing, when people came into contact with Mary they would assume she had buried a loved one and ask her who had died.  I wonder how she answered them?  And I wonder if she could still smell the nard when she found out Jesus had been crucified… and when she heard the news of His resurrection!

———————

Ready for Sunday

We know how the account plays out, but Mary was simply in the moment, responding with love for her Lord.  She had no idea she was a participant in the spiritual drama of the ages.

Tomorrow, will my worship embody how much I love my Lord?  Will I sacrificially worship Him, so that the fragrance of devotion lingers around me for others to smell all week?

With her sacrifice Mary participated in Jesus’ mission to redeem the world by preparing his body for burial as she anointed him with perfume.  This is the potential within worship – participating with Christ in the redemption of the world.  Break my vessel open, Lord.

——————

More info on the sense of smell:

  • Among the five senses, we are the least conscious of smell, but we trust it the most.  Creating Understanding, by Donald K Smith, p. 146
  • People recall smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while the visual recall of photos sinks to about 50% after only three months.  Our odor memories frequently have strong emotional qualities and are associated with the good or bad experiences in which they occurred. Olfaction is handled by the same part of the brain (the limbic system) that handles memories and emotions. Therefore, we often find that we can immediately recognize and respond to smells from childhood such as the smell of clean sheets, cookies baking in the oven, the smell of new books or a musty room in Grandma’s house.
  • With every breath, your sense of smell is at work, even when you’re sleeping.
  • Our sense of smell is more connected to emotion than any other sense.
  • Recall can be enhanced if learning is done in the presence of an odor and that same odor is present at the time of the recollection. (For this reason some teachers burn scented candles in their classroom and then again at Mandatory National Tests like the SAT.)
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