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Ash Wednesday

Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, this Lenten season on Wednesday nights we will be focusing our attention on some of the people of the passion history and how they fit in.  Tonight we have the opportunity to look at Mary of Bethany, a model of faith: (read text)

There’s just so many astounding things about this account, aren’t there?  First of all, this is six days before the Passover that means a matter of days before Jesus is going to be hanging on a cross- and He knows it.  Jesus is about to fight the decisive battle of all time – fighting the worst enemies there have ever been and ever will be: sin, death, the devil, and hell all at once- and where is He?  In the gym beefing up his muscles?  Studying battle plans?  Cowering in a corner by Himself?  No.  He’s eating dinner with His friends.  Then, here we have busy Martha at work serving her Savior in her own unique way.  And who’s reclining at the table?  None other than a guy who had been dead for 4 days and is now walking around and talking as live as ever!  Why?  Because Jesus had stood outside his tomb and said the words, “Lazarus, come out!”  When faced with Jesus’ powerful words, even death itself has nothing, but must obey the voice of Jesus.  And what else is happening at this dinner?  Then here comes Mary with a likely 30 or 40 thousand dollar jar of perfume (perhaps imported from India) and pours it out on Jesus’ feet!  This was just an extravagant expense, but notice on whom she uses it: Jesus.  Then she does the unthinkable, she loosens her hair and wipes Jesus’ feet with her hair!  Dealing with a person’s feet was the job of the servant or the slave.  They didn’t have paved roads back then and their footwear was typically sandals.  About at Passover time there would have been thousands of animals being brought to Jerusalem for sacrifice which would have been brought on the roads everyone walked on.  Mary not only anointed Jesus’ feet, pouring this perfume over them, she also used it so abundantly that she actually used her own hair to wipe off His feet!

Mary demonstrated her faith.  There were many times that Jesus had told His followers that He would be handed over and suffer at the hands of sinful people and be crucified and died.  Yet it seemed there was only one who was truly listening: Mary.  It wasn’t so much the cost of the gift Jesus was pleased with but the spirit in which she gave it, her heart.  For Mary her Lord was her all in all and to her it didn’t matter if she broke the bank, broke her hair tie, or broke her pride in order show how much her Lord was worth to her.  You can almost smell the perfume as it filled the room and the house.

In the midst of this act of faith was an interruption from a somewhat unlikely source.  One of Jesus’ own disciples can’t believe the “waste” going on here.  “Couldn’t this have been sold and the money given to the poor.”  On the surface it seems as though he has pious intentions, but in reality they are only a cover for his own greed.  He could have used a fat cut of that money to line his own pocket.  Yet far from shaming Mary for her actions, her actions actually put him to shame.  Jesus rebuked him, “Leave her alone!”

It’s one thing to say something with the mouth but have a totally different attitude of the heart.  How easy it is for us to fall into this trap.  In a way Judas’ words were a stab at Jesus, “This was a waste!  Jesus’ isn’t worth this!”  Jesus isn’t worth this.  How much is our Lord worth to us?  Are we ready to give our Lord everything or does greed still pull at our hearts?  It’s easy to say the right thing with our mouths but have our hearts in a totally different place, isn’t it?  Is our Lord worth our time or is our time more valuable to us?  Is our Lord worth our things or are our things more valuable to us than He?  You see we demonstrate a lack of faith in the Lord when we are not ready to give Him everything we have and are. But Jesus’ rebuke wasn’t the end of the story.  And His rebuke against us and our sins is not His last word to us either.

You see, Mary did this for Jesus’ burial.  After Jesus’ death on the cross there wouldn’t be any time to anoint Jesus’ body.  Mary showed her costly and humble devotion to her Lord who would soon be going to the cross.  Mary showed her faith in Jesus by showing that He was worth everything to her.  The beautiful picture we have every Lent is to see once again how much we are worth to our Lord and Savior.  He considered us worth it to suffer at the hands of evil people, he considered us worth it to be tortured on a cross and die a shameful death.  You see, in God’s eyes you are worth everything.  It wasn’t with gold or silver that you were bought back from your previous way of life but with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect!  God spent his blood on you!  How much does that make you worth?  How much is God’s blood worth?  Priceless.  In God’s eyes that is what you are!  This Lent once again see how much you’re worth to God and serve Him with all you have and are for He is worth it to you!