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The Gratuitous Love of God

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     Mark 14 contains the story of the woman who came and anointed Jesus’ head with pure nard from an expensive alabaster jar which she broke for the occasion. Mark does not identify this woman by name, but an examination of the other gospels results in the information that this woman was none other than Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
            If we stop for a moment and consider the things that Mary had experienced with Jesus, it might help us to understand the actions which Mark relates to us. Most notably, Mary had been a witness to that amazing resurrection of her brother which Jesus performed in John 11. Interestingly, before Jesus raised Lazarus, John tells us that Jesus wept. Even though he knew that he would be raising this man from the dead, even though he knew that this feeling of grief would almost immediately be swept away in the joy of seeing Lazarus again, even though he knew, more keenly than anyone else, that this death was not the end for his friend, still, Jesus wept. It is almost as though Jesus were wasting his tears, meaninglessly shedding his infinitely priceless tears in a gratuitous display of emotion.
            Consider the psychological and spiritual effect that this would have had on Mary. She witnessed the outpouring of the precious tears of Jesus, poured out for no conceivable purpose other than to show his very great love for his friend. Jesus’ love for Lazarus was so great that even the knowledge that he would be raised to life in just a few minutes was not enough to keep the tears from flowing. Jesus wept. And Mary took note.
            And she pondered. How could she demonstrate a love for Jesus himself in the same way that Jesus demonstrated his love for her brother? At last she hit upon it! She could take that priceless alabaster jar that was filled with the extremely expensive perfume, the perfume that had been purchased and stored away all these years so that she could anoint herself with it on her wedding day, and she could pour that out for Jesus, just as he had poured out his priceless tears for Lazarus.
            Was it a waste? Yes. Did it serve any practical purpose? No. But then, what purpose did Jesus’ tears serve, other than to show his love? And what other profit was gained than the demonstration of that glorious love when he poured out yet another even more priceless substance a few days later?
            Have we grasped the totally gratuitous love of God poured out for us? And more to the point when faced with the story of Mary’s sacrifice in Mark 14––what totally gratuitous display of love for Christ have we poured out lately?

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