The Real Treasure

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:1–8 ESV)

Sometimes faith requires a bold move, not for the attention of others, but out of devotion to our Lord Jesus. Today’s text shares one such example.

This is the Mary who boldly sat at Jesus’s feet to hear his teaching rather than helping her sister with meal preparation. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus have a close relationship with Jesus.

Mary gives to Jesus what she has, a costly gift, perhaps even an heirloom designed to be used as a dowry.

At Bethany (which means “house of the afflicted/poor”), Mary empties herself of her pride, not caring what others think or say, to focus on and exalt Jesus.

When criticized for her extravagance, Jesus defends Mary and what she has done, challenging those bullying her. What she has done is a sign of what will soon happen, his death and burial.

The fragrance lingers in the air and on him. The image of Mary’s shocking actions lingers in their minds, Jesus’s words in their ears.

Mark’s account says what she did will be remembered as a kind of silent proclaiming of the good news, now told by others (Mark 14:9).

Mary’s act is a precursor of a divine gift even more shocking. The Prince of Peace will give his life so we may have peace with God . . . and with each other (2 Corinthians 4–5).

What is that peace worth to us? What is it worth to Jesus? The real treasure, Mary realizes, is not what she has in a jar but the One dining in her house.

Peace is a statement of faith requiring boldness, humility, a focus on the One, while ignoring what others think and say. Because he is not just the focus, but the reason we can have peace.

So where is your need for wholeness? In your heart? With the Creator of this world? With a family member, a friend, even an enemy?

Is there something the Prince of Peace is prompting you to do? To say? To receive? To simply be present, while saying and doing nothing?

It likely will require both boldness and humility. Let it be, with your focus on Jesus.

O precious Prince of Peace, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Randy Jaspers is the NAB regional minister for the Northern Plains Region.