It was a special night.
The first Easter was just a few days away, although they had no idea.
Close friends gathered to celebrate the resurrection—Lazarus’ resurrection. There was fabulous food. Lots of laughter.
Their laughter was fueled with gratitude. Everyone at the dinner had been given new life. That’s why Simon invited everyone over—to honor Jesus, the giver of life.
Simon himself was called “Simon the Leper”—he was probably one of the many lepers who Jesus healed. Now here he was, hosting dinner among friends, something he would not have been able to do before.
He lived in Bethany, where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. So of course they were at Simon’s house. The disciples were there too. Martha helped served the meal—her gift of gratitude to the one who raised her brother from the grave.
And Lazarus. There he was, reclining with Jesus. Just a few days ago he smelled like death. Now he breathed in life. And he shared the bread with Jesus—the true bread of life.
I wonder how many times they recounted that story…“Lazarus, come out!”
I can only imagine that it gave Jesus courage to hear it again. The next day he was going into Jerusalem. The giver of life was on his way to death.
He already told this close circle of friends that he would suffer—friends would betray him, people would mock him, and he’d die on a cross.
But he also told them that he’d rise again. “On the third day the Son of Man will be raised to life.” Matthew 20:19
Returning from the dead may have been unbelievable before Lazarus’ story. Now maybe Jesus’ friends could hold onto that hope even as they dreaded what was ahead.
Since it was a dinner to honor Jesus, one of the women—another person grateful for new life—came near to Jesus. She anointed his head with perfume. Expensive perfume. She lavished it on the giver of life, unaware that she prepared him for death.
It was such an abundant gift that it filled the whole house with its fragrance. And it filled the room with tension.
The murmurs began. Some were indignant. Others appalled.
“Why this waste?” Judas asked, revealing his heart of betrayal.
The disciples thought it was impractical. A waste.
Jesus said it was beautiful. It was so meaningful to him that he said her story would be told whenever his story was told.
I wonder how long the aroma lingered. Could Jesus smell it when he wrestled in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane? When the soldiers pushed the crown on his head, did he get a whiff of the extravagant aroma of gratitude? Did the perfume mix with his sweat that dripped down into his face on the cross?
I wonder if the aroma reminded Jesus of the new life he gave, even as he went to his death.
I also wonder what my response would have been to the extravagant aroma in Simon’s house. If I were at Simon’s dinner that night, I probably would have been in the kitchen with Martha. I likely would have been washing dishes when the woman anointed Jesus with the perfume. As the aroma drifted to my corner, I may have whispered something to Martha about the expensive perfume, something similar to what the disciples said.
“Is that smell what I think it is? Did she just use the whole bottle? Isn’t that a bit extravagant? Why the waste? Surely she could have been more practical with that.”
So much of our life is dictated by practical. It’s only predictable that our response to Jesus tends to be practical too. Give him some time, but not too much time. That wouldn’t be practical. Give him some money, within reason. Give him a part of my life. Not all of my life. That would be a waste.
This woman wasn’t practical though. She was extravagant. And Jesus loved it.
Her example challenges me to think about what that would look like in my life.
The past two weeks I’ve spent time in Peru with some extravagant people. Couples are establishing churches when they could live closer to their families back home instead. Doctors and nurses serve the poor scattered across the rugged mountains instead of becoming rich in their home countries– Diospi Sayana Clinic.
Extravagant. They all have friends and family who think they are wasting their lives for Jesus—just like the disciples thought the jar of perfume was a waste on Jesus.
What about you? Is your response to Jesus practical? Or extravagant?
Is your response to the new life he gives you so extreme that others think you’re “wasting ” your life on him? If not, maybe your Christianity is too practical.
You don’t have to move to another country to “waste” your life on Jesus. You can be extravagant for Jesus in your own family, on the job, in the neighborhood or across town. There are lots of ways you can “waste” your money, your time and your life for Him.
This Easter weekend, as you’re reminded of Jesus’ death and resurrection, remember the woman who anointed him with the expensive perfume. What’s your response to Jesus?
May our lives be an aroma of extravagant gratitude to the giver of life.
Because he has risen!
Jesus anointed at Bethany – John 12:1-11, Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:1-11