Wholehearted

Day 36

Wholehearted 

‘I will bring him near and he will come close to me –

‘for who is he who will devote himself

to be close to me?”

declares the Lord.’

Jeremiah 30:21

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:13

“Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen.”

Brené Brown

Found in Matthew 26:1-16, Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:1-8

This flower, this day, it stopped me in my tracks. 

I hit the breaks in my car just to pull over and draw close. This bright flower, It was growing right there in the hardened road, its roots tucked deep beneath the unforgiving pitch, its frail leaves stretching bravely above, its golden petals curling courageously, extravagantly, unabashed reaching toward the sun. Vulnerable.

Breathtaking.

Brave. 

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It reminded me of her, this girl. Nameless in most Gospels but identified twice as Mary in the Gospel of John (John 11:2, and 12-1-8).

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard…” John 12:1-3

This story of Mary’s devotion is framed with a darkness closing in, as the Chief Priests and Pharisees plot Jesus death…

“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” Matthew 26:3-5

“So from that day on they plotted to take his life…” John 11:53

While they plotted to kill him, Jesus, He planned to die. And He tried to share this journey with His closest friends, His disciples, as He had done many times…

“Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” Matthew 26:1-2

 …but they didn’t seem to understand. His plans were not their plans, His ways, not theirs. His disciples, His closest friends, they were never fully with Him.The path they were on was everything they hoped for. Everything they expected. Better. It just wasn’t His path. 

Jesus knew it. 

And somehow, somewhere deep within her, Mary seemed to know it too.

“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.” John 12:3

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There she was, vulnerable. Courageous. Frailty facing down darkness, beauty and devotion standing almost alone amidst a rising squall of blindness, selfish ambition and corruption. This one brave heart. The one who wasn’t wondering what others might think. She had thrown all caution (and all cultural propriety) to the wind and thrown herself at Jesus feet. 

She crossed a line, was out of line, forgot her lines. She was totally off script. 

So the concrete closes in around her condescending, condemning. While she, unashamed, stretches out towards the son. Wholehearted. Vulnerable.

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Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.” Mark 14:4-5

“When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Matthew 26:8-9

“But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 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.” John 12:4-6

It looked unhinged. It appeared all wrong. They criticise her for her lack of political correctness, her embarrassing lack of embarrassment. It is one thing to feel this devotion, but quite another to show it. Who does that?

But eyes that see do not always see. Sometimes it’s the heart that has the clearer sight. 

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Besides Jesus, Mary alone in this story is in touch with what is really happening, in touch with what is about to happen. All that God is doing. All around her people are plotting, scheming or missing the point, but she sees through it all to Jesus. And His path. She alone acts in step with the Spirit.

“When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.” Matthew 26:12

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.” John 12:7

Somehow she knew. She saw the path Jesus was on, this road He’d been on since before time began, and she responded, whole heartedly, brave-heartedly with extravagant empathetic devotion. Surrounded by stone hearts, asphalt ambitions, concrete condemnation Mary saw through. To Him. And met Him there.

And was it a grace to Him, this seeing, this weeping, this vulnerable devotion? Did it for one moment wipe away His loneliness. Her seeing, being close?

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How often we miss Him. 

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” John 12:8 

But you will not always have Me. Read this moment, be in it with me. Don’t succumb to the appearance of piety. Don’t take offence at spontaneous devotion. Be here. He pleads. With me. Be with Me.

And one disciple’s sensible sensitivities are so offended by His plea that he then leaves Him altogether, walking out to sell the son of God. 

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” Mark 14:10-11

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How often we miss Him. Like they did; the Pharisees’ stone hearts plotted to kill the God they so devoutly served (26:3-5), the disciples’ indignation, scorned and missed the moment with their Messiah and friend (26:8-9); and then Judas’ tar-thick treachery clanging silver coins with every step (26:14-16). All these motivations betrayed the son of God. Missed him. 

The wholehearted warmth of Mary’s actions that day blaze like bright light on all the actions of those around her. They are shown up, because she showed up: vulnerable.  Their motivations are outshone and brought to light by her wholehearted devotion. Not just this day, but for all days from then on.

“Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Matthew 26:13

Her brave heart. It speaks still. Wherever the story of this Kingdom reaches, so too does this story of Mary’s devotion. ‘This is how to do it’ it whispers, ‘this is what not missing the point, missing the moment, looks like’. This is what love looks like. Whole hearted, brave-hearted unabashed reaching for the Son.

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And Mary’s vulnerable courage pierces me. Probes my heart. Challenging. Calling.  Because I have been all the others, even Judas; selling Jesus short. I’ve been the Pharisees, so sure I had the story straight. I’ve been the disciples, missing the point. I’ve been Martha stressing to get it right. I have missed so many moments because I was more concerned with how I was coming across, than crossing over into the presence of God. Being there. Wholeheartedly. Vulnerably.

With Him. 

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:13

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And this is what I know: the days I miss Him are the days I don’t show up in my own beating core, with my own whole heart. The days I betray Him are the days I don’t reach, courageously, brave-hearted unabashed for Him. 

That flower, that day, it stopped me in my tracks.

Vulnerable.

Breathtaking.

Brave. 

Courage calling to my heart…

‘for who is he who will devote himself

to be close to me?

Jeremiah 30:21

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Journey Further 

What inhibits you from reaching wholehearted, brave hearted, unashamed for Jesus?

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References, Notes and Credits

All Biblical quotations are from the NIV Bible UK version (NIVUK) unless otherwise stated. Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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