There they sat, chewing million dollar grass. Lucky cows… some might have thought. But there they were, cows sitting in a paddock right in the heart of Auckland City, with the best view in town. My Dad and I chuckled as we leaned on the fence at Cornwall Park, one of the oldest and loveliest parks in the city, which happened to also be part-farm. Considering the house prices in Auckland, these cows didn’t know just how much that grass they were sitting on was worth! And yet, thank goodness that park was still there, and hadn’t been developed… it’s huge old trees and beautiful green spaces provided much rest and leisure for all around. But those cows… if only they knew they had it so good…
She poured all of it out, every drop… all over his feet! Mary chose an expensive way to express her love for Jesus… couldn’t she have just given him a hug? But instead she poured an entire jar of pure Nard, an expensive perfume, all over his feet… his feet! I looked up the value of Nard in today’s dollars, and this is what I found: “The cost of the ointment was worth about 300 denarii, about $54,509 in U.S. dollars. The disciples were not only shocked by the cost of the ointment she was using, but of the amount that she was using. This act of devotion was seen as waste to the disciples.” Here is John’s account:
John 12:4-8 “But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was going to betray Him, asked, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” Judas did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money bag, he used to take from what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “She has kept this perfume in preparation for the day of My burial. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.”
Don’t we just have the most practical and sensible ideas sometimes! In Judas’s case, his “sensible idea” of using the money to feed the poor was, in fact, a devious plan to get more for himself. Sometimes we can fall into this kind of selfishness… but often it’s just that we depend on ourselves and our good intentions to decide what we think is best: “Here’s a need that needs meeting, I’ll just do XYZ to meet it. I have this talent, so it seems logical to use it in this way to the best of my advantage. I have these resources, I’ll use them to get more”.
Honestly, if I had been Mary, I might not have thought to pour out all that expensive perfume on Jesus’s feet, and certainly not in front of all those people watching (and wipe it with my hair!). Seems pretty, I don’t know… awkward! And yet, Jesus was so pleased… whether she realised that was the intention or not, she had kept the perfume for the day of his burial (an eternally important moment), and her obedience and outpouring of love and adoration was recorded for all of us to read millenia later.
I remember hearing a story a while back about a brain surgeon who was one of the top in the world. He came to know Jesus, and one day He heard God telling him to use his skills and go and be a brain surgeon in the middle of Africa. He went. A lot of people thought it was such a waste… he could’ve made millions, he could’ve been famous, and had an amazing reputation. Isn’t it interesting how different God’s ideas are than ours?
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Our perspective is often just so… sensible! So practical, so… concerned about the present. From what I’ve learned, God is much more concerned about the eternal. We cannot possibly know how things will pan out in the long-run… we cannot possibly know all the things that God knows about what will happen, who our choices will affect, and what impact they will have. But here’s the thing… God does! And He wants not just the good, but the best.
I’ve often thought about why God chose to do what He did, the way He did, through His son… as I know many others have. If I was God, Creator of the Universe, would I send my son, my only son, to become a little baby to very seemingly ordinary and unimportant earthly parents, born in a dirty stable, growing up to be a carpenter (the God of the universe… quietly making tables and chairs for 18 years!), and then let him walk around, essentially homeless, with a crew of rough rabble, inhibited by the common limitations of a human body, and then let Him die in the most painful and humiliating way, completely
innocent and yet saying absolutely nothing in his own defense… all for a bunch of ungrateful creations like us that scoffed at him, rejected him and beat him? It just doesn’t make sense to us. I can’t imagine putting my own child through that… and yet, that’s the way He chose to do it. And there are so many treasures to be unearthed in that story…
I’m sure those cows can’t appreciate the value of the land they live on, and perhaps that surgeon couldn’t appreciate the eternal impact he would have by using his top-class skills in the middle of Africa. I’ve had times where I really wanted to use a skill or a resource in a certain way (mostly to my own advantage), and everyone else was telling me to do the same… and I felt God gently saying, “no”. I’m still waiting to see why, and what he does with it instead… but all I know is, it’ll be the best way, and the most eternal way.