1Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said?
- Why is this happening/being said?
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it?
- What does it mean?
- What does it mean for us?
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
Reflection: Imagine a child picking flowers in her yard – violets, daisies, dandelions – as a gift of love for her mother and father. Children can see the truly beautiful and valuable things that adults overlook, such as the small, delicate wildflowers blooming amidst the blades of grass. Children do not know how to go shopping for expensive gifts in the store. They care nothing for designer clothes or gadgets or “luxuries” until they are trained by adults to care for such frivolous and trivial items. Children give gifts from the heart, gifts of love and true value. What can you give to God today that will be a freewill offering of your love and childlike faith in God? What is it that God wants from you today? Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart, mind, and spirit for the true treasure within you, and imagine yourself filling the Father’s outstretched hands of grace with the wildflowers of your gratitude. Come to God like a little child coming to her parents and offer to God the invaluable beauty within you.
Prayer Focus: As you pray this week, consider asking God to give you a generous, hospitable, and humble spirit. As you cultivate an ongoing attitude of prayerfulness, allow the Holy Spirit to show you persons who need a kind, welcoming, loving word or action from God. Perhaps you might be the vessel through which God gives such a grace-filled gift. Pray that you might be made aware of how our acts of service and love, no matter how seemingly small or mundane, are received by God as sacrifices of faithfulness to him. Ask God to transform your motivations in giving to both God and others, so that you might be the bearer of lavish gifts of praise, glory, love, and compassion.
Meditation Focus: Focus your mind on the word costly. This is the word John uses to describe Mary’s gift to Jesus of perfume and her service of anointing him. There were more pious things to do with that valuable gift, as Judas pointed out. There were likely more discrete offerings Mary could have made to Jesus, our modern sensibilities might say. There was definitely a deeper level of insight Mary demonstrated that was lost on others throughout the narrative of the final days of Jesus. Mary’s gift was lavish, outrageous, and deeply spiritual. Nothing else would do for the one whom she trusted with her whole being to bring her to God. Mary’s gift was costly because, in her mind, Jesus was worthy. Now place yourself in the scene. Imagine Jesus at the table, reclining with his disciples and Lazarus. You enter the room with a costly gift to give Jesus, a gift which reflects your true feelings about him. Everyone’s eyes are on you as you bow before him to present your gift, but the only one whose reaction you care about is Jesus. What is it that you give Jesus? What is his reaction? Does it reflect the worth you ascribe to Jesus? God has lavished his love upon you in Jesus Christ and has proclaimed you worthy of his love. What gift will you bring in response?
Journaling Focus: Write about the most meaningful gift anyone has ever given to you. What was it? Why did they give it to you? Was it a special occasion or a freewill, surprise offering? What made it so valuable to you? As you write about this special gift, begin to think about how you give to other people. How do you decide what to give someone as a gift? When and why do you give gifts to others? Consider the people in your life in whom you want to invest the greatest, most treasured gifts. What sacrifices is God leading you to make for other people? What gifts can you bring to God and what sacrifices might you make for God’s Kingdom? As you write, ask God to place within you a giving spirit so that you might share the best of yourself with God and others.
Breath Prayer: Father, receive the offering of my life.