ODJ: Extravagant Love

January 6, 2017 

READ: John 12:1-8 

Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume . . . and she anointed Jesus’ feet (v.3).

Every year during Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter), many churches follow Jesus’ example during the Last Supper by washing one another’s feet. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and told them to imitate what He had done. Washing feet is a prayerful and powerful act, but it can also upset our sense of pride, personal space, and privacy. It can be truly unsettling.

Mary, filled with love for Jesus, pulled out her “jar of expensive perfume” and spilled it over Jesus’ feet (John 12:3). She cleaned them with the aromatic ointment, using her own hair as a towel.

Unlike the discomfort we might feel while having someone wash our feet (and the discomfort the disciples felt (especially Peter) when Jesus washed their feet), Jesus welcomed Mary’s tender generosity. It wasn’t Christ but Judas who was bothered. “That perfume was worth a year’s wages,” he exclaimed. “It should have been sold and the money given to the poor” (v.5).

John tells us that Judas’ intentions were not so noble as he made them sound; rather he was conniving to get his hands on more of the money. Still, I’m struck by Jesus’ defense of Mary. “Leave her alone,” He said. “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (v.8). Jesus, a constant friend to those on the fringe, was in no way opposing care for the poor but rather highlighting how love for Him comes before all other affections.

Mary’s effusive love was an offense to some of those around her. Jesus’ effusive love for us is an offense to many as well. Extravagant love heals us, but it also unnerves us. We’ll need courage to both give and receive this powerful, profuse love that flows from God.

—Winn Collier

365-day plan: Genesis 8:1-22

Read the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Place yourself in the story. How would you feel? What questions would you have? 
When have you encountered God’s extravagant love? What struggles do you face whenever you feel the desire to express an extravagant love for God?