I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to really love Jesus.  These thoughts have been especially stirred by studying again the story in John 12 about Mary pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiping his feet with her hair.  The perfume cost a year’s wages…that’s astounding to me!  Can you imagine taking a year of your paychecks and buying some perfume to pour on the feet of Jesus?  Doesn’t that sound kind of wasteful?  That’s what Judas Iscariot thought of it:  wasteful.  (Of course the fact that he was the money keeper for the group and a thief didn’t help him see it any other way!)

But if I’m really, really honest, it sounds a bit wasteful to me, too.  A year’s salary spent on perfume to pour over someone’s feet?!

But immediately another thought comes to me when I read the story.  It was such an extravagant act of love.  It demonstrated in a profound, moving, visual way the love of this woman for the man who had taught her (Read Luke 10 where she sits at his feet while he teaches – something that men and rabbis simply didn’t do for women). And for the one who had given her brother back to her by raising him from the dead (John 11).  Out of an overflow of love and thankfulness and gratitude, she does something extravagant:  she unbinds her hair (another unheard of act in that culture), pours out a pint of this expensive perfume, and wipes his feet with her unbound hair.

And John, who watched it all happen, writes, “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

I picture this story in my mind’s eye and it stirs me in so many ways.  It also causes me to ask myself, “What does it mean to love Jesus extravagantly when I can’t see Him or touch Him?”  I don’t know that answer for sure.  I only know that I’m asking the question often of the Lord and giving Him permission to answer it.  Then I’m asking for His grace to allow me to say yes when He does give me the answer.

Though I don’t know what the full answer will be, I do know that it will have something to do with loving people, whom I can see and touch.

As I pray about this, I’m reminded of Brennan Manning’s compelling words, “According to the evangelical criterion for holiness, the person closest to the heart of Jesus Christ is not the one who prays the most, studies Scripture the most, or the one who has the most important position of spiritual responsibility entrusted to his or her care.  It is the one who loves the most…” (Italics are mine.)

Wow!  I have to admit that often I would rather pray or study the Word than step outside my comfort zone and love someone.  But everything in me resonates with Manning’s words.  I believe they are true, according to scripture.

And so, I fall to my knees and pray:

“Lord, I give you my life again today.  I give you permission to reveal your will to me about what it means to love you extravagantly, like Mary did.  Open my eyes and ears and heart and mind and soul to your quiet voice that will speak your words to me.  Then give me grace and strength and power to follow, once I’ve heard.”

Extravagant love…I’ve got a long way to go.  Help me, Lord.