While Jesus reclined at a supper made in His honour there came into the room a woman with an alabaster box of ointment. It is very possible that she had been laying aside funds with which to purchase this ointment for as long as the three and a half years her Lord had been in public ministry. As she broke open the container and poured out its precious contents over the object of her heart’s devotion the house was filled with its beautiful fragrance. However there was one among the guests who felt her extravagant gift was a little – over the top!
“This could have been sold and the money given to the poor”.
Judas rightly deducted that her gift was about a pound in weight, and probably worth about a year’s wages. This was a large sacrifice for a woman in her position. It would have meant that she had to go without things in order to acquire the funds to buy this ointment.
Mary of Bethany knew however that what she had to give was but a poor offering in comparison to the One who was receiving her love gift. If she could have given one hundred pounds weight of ointment she would have gladly given it without reserve. Why is that? It was because she knew Him, whom her soul loved so well. She had been seated at His feet and hearing His word on many occasions. She knew what He liked and loved. She knew who He really was. She knew the reason why He had come.
Knowing Him the way she did gave her the courage to demonstrate her love for Him in this extravagant manner without feeling intimidated by the opinions of others. Knowing Him the way she did gave her serenity in time of sorrow and caused her to behave in a manner that made it easy for others to believe in Him also:
“Then many of the Jews which came to Mary,
and had seen the things that Jesus did, believed on Him”
John 11: 45.
Less than a week after this incident there was another who did have a hundred pounds weight of ointment to give to the Lord. He was in a position to do so but had to make a sacrifice of a very different sort altogether. Nicodemus, the same man who had earlier come to Jesus in the night had learned a thing or two from the Lord Himself in those precious hours when there was nobody else around to disturb and distract. Like Mary who had waited for the right moment to offer her gift, so had Nicodemus.
Just after the death of Christ on the cross Nicodemus was ready to anoint that precious body with the fragrant ointment far in excess of what was ever needed, but Nicodemus knew how worthy His beloved Lord Jesus was of such a gift. If he only had more he would have gladly given it all without reserve. Why is that? It was because he knew His Lord so well. However he couldn’t have done this without the help of his fellow compatriot of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathæa. (Who, by the way was another extravagant giver!) Hewing a tomb out of solid rock especially for the body of his belovèd Lord was no trouble at all because he knew Him so well and waited for just the right moment to give his offering.
In the dark of the night in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus and His disciples were, there came a band of soldiers. When the Scripture speaks of ‘a band’ numerically it usually means 500–600 men – armed! They had come to take away the Lord for an illegal trial under the instructions of the priests and elders. They had sought for a long time to silence this Man and now the opportunity was theirs thanks to Judas who led them to where he knew the Lord often resorted. Why such a large amount of armed men to take away from the garden the ‘Prince of Peace’? Why would they do such a thing and go to all this trouble? Wasn’t this what we would consider a little over the top? Perhaps they were prepared for a scuffle or last ditch attempt of Jesus to save Himself from inevitable fatality. Of course from our standpoint, we know that never happened. There was no scuffle and He went peacefully much to their surprise. Why was that? Could it be because they didn’t know the One who whom Judas had betrayed to them? Surely this proves to us that they didn’t know Him at all! Of course six hundred armed men were no match to the power at the Lord’s disposal and He could have snuffed them all out with just a word or less.
Why do we sometimes over prepare for imagined eventualities, only to find that for which we thought we were prepared never happened. Is it because we are fearful and perhaps unbelieving? Have you ever noticed that the fears we imagine never embrace the reality of the presence of God in our lives? We spend our money, we give our time and worry ourselves to distraction and all because we have lost sight of the Lord Himself.
Let us remember that the Lord whom we so often neglect is a cheerful giver Himself. In fact He gives to such excess we would perhaps think He was being wasteful, (humanly speaking.) Think of the stars in the night sky, a sunset, countless little bluebells on the forest floor bed, snowflakes, birdsong, water, autumn leaves; the list is endless. Then there are the spiritual benefits for the believer like being loved by God and forgiven, being accepted by God in Christ, the certainty of His promised presence with us all the time, the assurance of a home in heaven all because He loved without reserve and regret and proved it when He gave Himself and became our substitute, dying to take away our sin.
Have you noticed our friends that were mentioned earlier were a bit like the Lord they loved in their giving? Without even noticing they were mimicking His ways when they gave the way they did.
Oh to be like Mary, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathæa and many others who knew their God and Saviour and learned how to be ‘cheerful givers’, and give without reserve or regret.
Perhaps we then could utter as the hymn writer wrote:
"Prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts,
if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing,
that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
Proverbs 5: 6-7