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Weekly Devotion – John 12:3

By Mike Caton

John 12:3, 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.

What is nard, exactly? It is a perfume, an essential oil if you will, that is made from the roots of the spikenard plant. The thing is, this plant grows in the Himalayan Mountains, in the modern countries of India, China and Nepal. And it only grows above 30,000 feet. Those things alone tell you how expensive nard is. Then there is the process of grinding and crushing the roots to extract the oil. What does nard smell like? I suppose it is hard to describe a smell; most commentators spoke about a woody, musky, earthy scent. That was not real helpful for me. But if you want to really know, you can buy a pint of pure nard from the internet for about $625.

Nard was a pretty popular perfume in Bible days, in both the Old and New Testament. The scent was powerful, it would permeate the entire house, as in this case. And the oil, when applied to the skin or hair, would cling and give off its aroma for many days. It was used in preparation for burial, as Jesus will mention in a few verses. And one commentator spoke about the scent lingering on Jesus’s body as he was arrested, beaten and crucified. With every breath, Jesus could remember Mary’s sacrifice for him as he was being sacrificed for her sins and the sins of the rest of the world. Many commentators say this was probably all the resources Mary had; maybe it was her dowry, her inheritance, her retirement plan. But the point is, she gave it all to Jesus, not in spite of the cost, but because of the cost. It was the most valuable thing she had. And Jesus was worth it.

What are we sacrificing for Jesus, what are we willing to give up? Most Christians today live a pretty soft life, especially in America. We live a life of convenience. We give what we want, we attend church whenever we want, we behave about however we want. Sadly, we rarely are called on to give up much or to really sacrifice anything. But there are Christians around the world and I am thinking about Afghanistan at the moment, where being a Christian could very well cost you your life? Would still have gone to church yesterday, if that was the case? Or did you even go at all? Just something to think about.

Father, help me make a complete and costly sacrifice. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Mike Caton is the preacher at Mount Olive Church of Christ in Belhaven. He volunteers at the Ponzer Fire Department and works part time with Hyde County EMS. If you would like to receive daily devotions in your inbox, email mikecaton@centurylink.net.

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