Dinner, Expensive Perfume, Murder Plots – Day 35/40Naima Lett | Blog | Monday April 2 2012
DAILY DOSE OF HOPE – BLOG – NAIMA LETT
DINNER, EXPENSIVE PERFUME, MURDER PLOTS | Day 35 of 40 (LENT)
Dinner, expensive perfume, murder plots… sounds like an episode of “Dallas” that TNT is resurrecting in June. But this isn’t about who shot J.R. This is the life of Jesus, six days before the Passover.
It’s Holy Week: our final week of reflection, fasting and prayer leading up to Easter Celebration on Sunday. So many praise reports have poured in over this 40-day Lenten season. Be encouraged, Fam! God is ever present and faithful.
This week, we reflect on the events leading up to Passover, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus… starting with that dinner, a very expensive jar of perfume and a murder plot.
Let’s look at the text.
Look below or CLICK: JOHN 12: 1-11
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He 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 help himself to what was put into it. 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” 9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.
Talk about a celebration! Jesus has performed a miracle and raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Lazarus and his family throws a dinner in Jesus’ honor. Lazarus’ oldest sister Mary serves as the consummate host and Lazarus is kicked back at the table with Jesus. Enter Lazarus’ sister, Mary.
THE EXPENSIVE PERFUME
Mary takes a jar of pure nard, an expensive perfume, that is worth a year’s wages and pours it on the feet of Jesus. If that’s not enough, she then wipes his feet with her hair. Scandalous!
Can you imagine the disdain on the faces of the guests as a woman – a woman! – starts pouring perfume on the Rabbi and wiping his feet with her hair. First of all, why is she taking her hair down in public? Why is she spilling expensive perfume that fills the room? Why is she touching a man that is not her husband, in public, and this is the Rabbi? This is Jesus, the miracle-working Rabbi! Clutch the pearls! Tip the tiara!
Mary doesn’t care. She debases herself for Him. This is the lowest she can go… at His feet. Mary’s Jewish roots reveal that she’s a little different than most 21st century ‘not-gone-get-my-hair-wet’ sisters. Not only does she get her hair wet, but she washes Jesus’ feet with that wet hair. She has to look a hot mess, a mixture of tears, perfume, dust, dirt. Oh my!
And let’s deal with the perfume. This nard that Mary uses is no joke. Thieving Judas complains that Mary is being wasteful in pouring a perfume that is worth a year’s wages on Jesus’ feet.
That year’s wages is estimated at about 300 denarii. Matthew 20:2 estimates that 1 denarius is the daily wage of a dayworker at 12 hours a day. So, if an agricultural worker receives 1 denarius per day for 12 hours of work, he would have to work 3,600 hours to get 300 denarii. That’s a man’s wages. We can only imagine how long Mary has to save up for that amount of money. Some scholars say it would’ve been her life’s savings or her dowry.
It’s hard to get an accurate conversion rate (see article) with our US current exchange being so different today; but if we take California’s minimum wage of $8.00 and multiply that by 3,600 hours, that’s about $28,800. That may not seem like a lot of money to some people today, but let’s put it in perspective.
The federal poverty line for a 1-person household is $11,170. I recently heard a report that only 1% of professional actors made above the poverty line in the year. I wish I could’ve gotten a hard copy of the report. They weren’t giving them out at the workshop I attended, but I wrote down the figures. The report said that approximately 10% of our professional actors worked in the year. And 10% of those 10% who worked (that’s 1%) made more than $10,000 a year. So, 99% of professional actors made below the US federal poverty line.
Hang with me. I have a point! If the normal professional actor today were a “Mary” per se, it would take him/her over 2.5 years to save up enough “dinero” for this perfume to bust on Jesus’ feet.
On a ridiculous side note, I Googled “Most Expensive Perfumes”, to see the cost of fragrances these days. I’m a mist kind of girl, so I really didn’t know. Luxatic.com lists Clive Christian’s Imperial Majesty Perfume [PHOTO ABOVE] as the most expensive perfume in the world at $215,000 per diamond crusted bottle. That must’ve been a couple of years ago, because it’s listed now at $435,000 on Amazon.com. Luxatic says there are only 20 bottles made in the world. Yeah.
With my last posts, it could seem like I’m infatuated with the cost of stuff. But the truth is that I’m shocked as I’m doing the research for this blog, and I want to share my deer-in-the-headlights astonishment with you. I had no idea a car could cost $1.6 million or a bottle of perfume could cost $435,000. But I guess it’s all relative. Hey, I’m a southern belle from Augusta, GA who ended up in the Hills. We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Back to Mary. The point is she pours her all onto the feet of Jesus in an extraordinary sign of worship. Jesus rebukes Judas and tells him to leave Mary alone because she has used this perfume to prepare Him for burial. It’s all about perspective. What Judas tries to make out as extravagance and excess, Jesus says is done for His memorial.
What have we poured out for Jesus’ lately?
It may not be a bottle of perfume, but would we consider lavishly dumping what is most valuable to us, 2.5 years of wages or our life’s savings on the feet of our Lord in worship? That’s a hard question. Let me know what you come up with.
THE MURDER PLOT
Now, Mary’s brother, Lazarus, is a bona fide problem to the religious establishment. Lazarus is a walking-talking-brought-back-from-the-DEAD-miracle. And people are coming from all over to look at him. In the process, they are believing that Jesus is the Messiah because He is the one who spoke to the tomb and commanded Lazarus to come out of it.
The chief priests and Pharisees have already started plotting the murder of Jesus (John 11:45-57), but now they decide they have to take Lazarus out too. This is like JFK and MLK assassination plots on steroids. This would be the equivalent of folks not only calling Dr. King’s home to make death threats, but also threatening to bomb anybody he helped along the way.
Yesterday, in my sermon, I made the point that sometimes we don’t want to go through hard times. In this case, Lazarus dies. But Jesus says that Lazarus’ death and subsequent resurrection is for God’s glory. So it is with us. When we go through circumstances that feel like death, yet live, people flock and marvel and point to us as living testimonies of God’s resurrection power.
Unfortunately, that may also mean that there are some murder plots along the way. When people start believing that Jesus is the Messiah because of the testimony of our lives, we may become the central storyline of our own episode of “Who Shot J.R.?”
Jesus says in just 2 chapters before, in John 10:10, that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy”, but Jesus comes that we “may have life, and have it abundantly”. Life is somewhat dangerous rolling with Jesus. Life is amazing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s definitely not “safe” all the time. It’s abundant in Him and we are “safe” in Him, but our circumstances are not guaranteed to be “safe” all the time.
The religious leaders plot to murder Lazarus because his life testifies to the amazing power of God. Why do we think we’re entitled to sip fancy umbrella drinks under tropical cabañas all the time? There’s nothing wrong with fabulous vacations or robust living, but I marvel when I hear followers of Jesus making demands on God to make our daily lives one big spa getaway. I’m like, ‘What Bible are you reading? Have you read the Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, an epistle or two?’ Folks that follow Jesus many times get a beat down and some times lose their lives. Perspective, Fam.
It’s Holy Monday.
I can’t promise you $435,000 perfume.
Or that you won’t star in a murder plot, Lord forbid.
But I can promise that if we honor the Lord and worship Him and bust open our 2.5 years of savings on His feet, Jesus Himself will defend us, just as He defends Mary. Can’t you hear Him telling our enemy, “Leave her alone! What she does is for my remembrance!”
Let that be our goal today:
That whatever we do is for His remembrance.
Your fellow hair-is-a-mess-foot-washer,
DAILY PRAYER ([LENT):
1) Confession & Repentance – Let’s confess our wrongs and ask forgiveness
2) Complete transparency – Let our guard down and talk to God about our lives.
3) Listen – Let’s quiet and listen to God’s Spirit re: the scriptures, etc.
4) Intercession for others – Let’s pray for our family, friends, coworkers, church, etc.
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