Acts of True / Thanksgiving Devotion
(c) Copyright 2005 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Intentional Acts of True/Thanksgiving Devotion
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at
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, 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. 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." 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. You will always have the
poor among you, but you will not always have me."
People of God:
IATDs - that's what this passage is all about. People were becoming
more and more devoted to Jesus and they were expressing it openly in
ever increasing ways. They even started doing IATDs -
Intentional Acts of True Devotion.
Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave and he came out struggling in the
bondage of his grave clothing. But he came out, he had new life! Jesus
had power even over death! The result was IATDs! People started
following Jesus. Not only did they start following him, they become
devoted to him, and their devotion was radical! Those who saw this
resurrection put their faith in Jesus. The sense of the Greek in verse
45 is that people without reservation, without growing into it, at this
one miracle put all their faith in him.
And it showed in IATDs. At one time the Jews had been devoted to the
Pharisees and the law. Now in wholesale crowds they were turning to
Jesus, becoming devoted to him, radically devoted to him with the kind
of devotion that is dangerous:
"He'll upset the applecart! We can't have that around here! We'll lose
our place and our power!" That was the thinking of the Pharisees, so
they plotted to take Jesus life. We often think it was Jesus who got
himself in trouble with the Pharisees, but the Pharisees wouldn't have
cared a bit if he didn't have these followers with their IATDs. Their
IATDs got him in trouble to.
Intentional Acts of True Devotion - they're powerful, they're
dangerous, and they mark the lives of those who put their faith in
Jesus. The question for each one of us this morning is this:
Is your life marked in that same way with IATDs?
Six days before the Passover another follower did an IATD. He hosted a
dinner in honor of Jesus the undecorated rabbi. It probably irritated
the Pharisees! They had worked for years, gone through their training,
studied the endless commentaries on the Torah, they had their hard
earned certificates hanging in conspicuous places, but here was this
nobody, an untrained rabbi and people were throwing dinners in honour
of him. IATDs are offensive! Such undeserved devotion breads jealousy!
The disciples were invited Peter, James, John, the rest of them,
including Judas. Close friends, family were invited, Martha, Lazarus,
Mary. At this celebration, Jesus was getting all the recognition.
And then Mary at one point during the meal bowed at Jesus feet, took a
pint of pure nard, a perfume coming from the roots of a shrub in
northern India worth a years wages (by today’s standards,
$50,000 or more), and she poured it over Jesus feet. Not his head as
was the custom. NO, she poured it on his feet, the place of giving
unrestrained honour, and then loosening and uncovering her hair she
wiped his feet - an Intentional Act of True Devotion, so rich, so deep,
there could be no doubt with friend or foe that she loved him and was
whole heartedly devoted to him.
Is your life marked by Intentional Acts of True Devotion?
Answer for yourself, as we look for just a few minutes at Mary's IATD.
First of all it was planned, it was intentional. It involved
the investment of a year's income in that culture. No small investment!
This IATD had to be planned, set aside, prepared for until the right
time came. It was an act of devotion intentionally out of the ordinary.
There are ordinary acts of true devotion shown in many ways, especially
through habits. For example many people express their devotion to
Christ through the habitual acts of true devotion of going to church,
prayer and devotions at dinner time, all spiritually healthy life
styles. I trust all of our lives are marked by Habitual Acts of True
Devotion. But there is something about habits. They can be
misinterpreted as a quality of the person: "He is a religious person,
goes to church every Sunday, and very moral!" or "She's sure a caring
individual! Look at all the charitable work she is involved in!"
But when a person does something out of the ordinary, an intentional
“out of the ordinary” act, a costly demonstration
of love, the world sees it as one of two things: Foolishness or an IATD!
The question of this morning is: Is your life marked with Intention,
costly, planned acts of true devotion?
Mary's devotion was shown by an Act of Devotion! Her act was
public, bowing before Jesus' feet, pouring out this expensive perfume
for all to see and smell, and the sweet pungent odor went throughout
the house, and with that amount, probably the neighbourhood, and
through scripture, throughout history!
Her act was not only financially expensive, it was true
worship, it was sacrificial, it was personally expensive. To let down
her hair for a man in public was to mar her own reputation in that
Her IATD was a public and expensive act of thanksgiving. But
there was a reason for it! It said "I love you my Lord" in an
undeniable way (Slide 5 Animation 6), faith expressing itself through
love - radically. It was not the kind of act designed to gain a good
reputation or praise among men! Instead it did the exact opposite,
Do you believe you are devoted to Christ? The reason why I ask that
question repeatedly is because our hearts are very good at deceiving
us. We think we are truly thankfully devoted to Christ, but thinking
and feeling is as far as it goes. Scripture has given us standards by
which to measure our devotion to Christ! "Love the LORD your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."
(Deuteronomy 6:5) That is the standard and it is meant to be a measure!
The standard of scripture for measuring our love for Christ is our
action! Faith without works is dead says James. Scripture says to us:
Show your faith through your works, your expensive maybe even dangerous
Intentional Acts of Thanksgiving Devotion, so that even those he hate
me can see that you love me deeply
This passage burns me when I read it, not in the sense that it makes me
angry, but in the sense that it hurts to read it because it exposes my
heart. Not only does it ask me if I am truly thankful, truly devoted to
Christ, this passage asks me and it asks you if we are devoted to
Christ like Mary.
Am I willing to radically express my love for Jesus, among those who
know him, and even among those who do not know him? Am I willing to
show my love for him in ways that will be very expensive for me,
financially?, in terms of my reputation?, in terms of my life?
It hurts because I find my heart comes back with a dozen reasonable,
rational arguments why I shouldn't radically show my love for him!
"You'll offend people Bill."
"Its hard to minister to people if you offend them Bill!"
"It’s a waste Bill, pearls before swine and all, you might
"Don't go overboard, people will think you've lost it!"
"Do what is safe,- show your love for Jesus in culturally acceptable
ways, in ways they will understand!"
If I listen to my heart, what burns the worst is that I sound just a
little to much like Judas, who rationally objected: "Why wasn't this
perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It is worth a year's
And even though his argument sounds so reasonable, behind it was
selfishness, self preservation, taking care of number one, begrudging
the Lord of heaven and earth this small offering of thanksgiving
devotion given by Mary, because he wanted a little piece of the pie for
I speak for myself, it may be however that I speak for you to. Is your
love for Christ of such a nature that it results in those dangerous,
maybe even fanatic Intentional Acts of True Devotion to Jesus Christ?
That is the first and most basic question that the scriptures have for
us this morning; a question that the Lord wants each of us to answer
because before anything and everything else in this entire world, He is
to be our first love. And if you find in your heart the same rational
arguments I do, the call of scripture is to turn to him afresh, with a
renewed commitment to love him, a commitment of devotion shown by our
action, an action that will stand up against God’s measuring
That being the main point of this passage, there is a second point that
comes out in this passage that is probably often misunderstood. Mary
had poured the nard on Jesus feet. Jesus said "Leave her alone, it was
intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial."
Jesus here acknowledged that Mary's act was prophetic, it was an act
preparing him for his burial.
Then Judas had his opportunity to speak, to give his rational
justification for selfishness. In response to Judas' rationalization
"You will always have the poor among you, but
you will not always have me."
Most people when reading that take it as a way of brushing aside Judas
reasonable argument with a not so reasonable argument. Jesus was not
necessarily poor or underfed. In fact he was at a banquet in his
honour. Certainly Jesus had no obvious pressing need for the moment,
though there were many poor who sure could have used a portion of those
year's wages. It sounds like an unreasonable response to a reasonable
though selfishly motivated argument.
It we understand it that way we have misunderstood what Jesus is saying.
"You will always have the poor among you, but
you will not always have me."
The main issue of this passage are Intentional Acts of True Devotion to
Jesus Christ. What Jesus is saying here is that Mary rightly showed
that devotion to him because he was present among them.
But throughout the rest of history, while Jesus is at the right hand of
the Father, how are we to show our intentional acts of true devotion to
Jesus? The answer is very simple: Jesus said "You always have the poor
Today, to give ourselves in love to Jesus is to give ourselves to the
poor, expensively, radically, as Isaiah says "Spend yourselves for the
poor." Jesus is saying that one of our main expressions to true
devotion to Jesus Christ is to give to the poor, the distressed, the
defenceless, always remembering that to the least of his brothers that
we give these gifts of love, we do it unto Him. Giving to the poor for
the Christian is an act of worship to Jesus! Throughout history, we
will always have the poor with us to express our Intentional Acts of
True Devotion to Jesus Christ.
Greed has become a virtue in our culture! Making it and making it good
gives people status in this culture. But we must beware: To keep our
wealth to ourselves when we have the poor among us, to not give
sacrificially to those in need is not only hating our neighbour, as
James 2:5 teaches us, it also is, in effect, begrudging Christ true
The clear teaching of this passage is that when we give of ourselves,
its not only an act of love to our neighbour, its an expression of our
devotion to Christ. Giving to the poor is worship in action. Giving to
the poor, radically, expensively is a measurable IATD to Jesus!
Let me encourage you brothers and sisters to give for them, that is
true religion! "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and
faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27) We
always will have the poor among us so that by our love and service to
them we might demonstrate our true devotion to Jesus Christ.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY
BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible
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