Daily D – John 12:5
“Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
JOHN 12:5 (CSB)
In many cases, extravagance is self-indulgent sin. In many others, it is a demonstration of gratitude for grace received which in no way can be repaid.
“What do you give the man who has everything,” the old commercial asked. What do you give the man who created all things and is the giver of all good things, including the resurrection of a very dead brother?
Three hundred denarii is an extravagant gift. Average Joe or Josephine works around 260 days per year. Take a year’s pay for Average Joe or Josephine and add forty more days worth of wages. That will easily buy the sweetest perfume on the market.
Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:39), and fell at his feet (John 11:32), now anointed his feet with her extravagant gift and “wiped his feet with her hair,” (12:3). That perfume was pure and perfect and appropriately extravagant.
“So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
The sense of smell is closely tied to memory. It easily evokes memories whether pleasant or provoking. It was not uncommon for me when I was a first grade student to take off my shirt at night in preparation for bed and smell Miss Allen’s perfume. She loved to hug me. I’m not sure if that is because of how much she loved me, or because she wanted me to be still.
Jesus was anointed with the type of perfume that lingers for days. Jesus called it a preparation for his burial (verse 7). What Thomas feared (11:16), what Jesus had predicted again and again, what the religious leaders were plotting (11:45-57), was going to happen.
Jesus was going to die.
He would be buried without time to prepare his body with the normal accoutrements of death to lessen the stench of morbidity. And yet, into that tomb went with Jesus a fragrance. It was not the fragrance of death, but of life, of love, of extravagance.
Everywhere Jesus went during that last week of his life (see 12:1), the fragrance lingered. It was a testimony of who Jesus was and the miracle he performed as the Resurrection and the Life. It was clear notice to death that just as it was powerless to keep Lazarus in the grave, so it was powerless to keep Jesus in his.
That fragrance was clear notice that nothing is too much to give in honor of Jesus our sinless Savior. That fragrance was a declaration of love. That fragrance spoke beauty and wonder and joy in the face of lies, unjust trials, horrific torture, and death so gruesome all the lights in the world went dark at the spectacle.
When Mary Magdalene encountered the resurrected Jesus outside the empty tomb that day, what was it that helped her identify Jesus through tear-blurred eyes? (See John 20:11-18.) Was it his voice calling her name (verse 16)? Or was it that fragrance, so strong in life, so much more wonderful on Resurrection Day, or the combination of the two that awakened her senses to reality stronger than death?
She clung to Jesus, to his living body, his nail-pierced feet, his essence of life.
How beautiful are the feet of him who is Good News.
And if Judas had had his way, none of this beauty and joy would be ours today (John 12:5, 6). Judas was a would-be thief of joy. Fortunately for us and for all creation, Joy ruled the day.
I will live extravagantly for Jesus.
Our Father, teach us live extravagant lives declaring your beauty, wonder, and grace. Make us fragrant with your essence, attractive with your presence. Empower us to carry in our being the joy of life that is really life. Amen.
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Psalm 32:7-9 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. Interlude The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
Exodus 39:42, 43 So the people of Israel followed all of the Lord’s instructions to Moses. Then Moses inspected all their work. When he found it had been done just as the Lord had commanded him, he blessed them.
Exodus 33:13 “If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”
Exodus 31:1-5 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!”