Today’s reading is Mark 14:3-9:
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
“You will not always have me,” Jesus says (cf. Isaiah 55:6).
Imagine that it’s finals week. You’re walking to the library to study and you feel something tugging at your heart to pause to meditate on God, open the scriptures, and listen to His voice. But you don’t. You think to yourself, “Well, if I don’t use every moment I have before my final to study, I’m not going to get the grade I want. I can’t possibly shift my schedule for this waste of time.” Your subconscious justifies your disobedience with, “If I choose to study now, I will be able to glorify God in my success in the long run. When I’m interviewed in Forbes, I can give credit to God. Plus, then I will have more means to bless others and be godly.”
Sound a bit like a certain indignant “some” from the passage above? In those moments we scold the Spirit within us that recognizes Truth (Mark 3:29).
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the reasoning of the indignant “some” or of your subconscious. Indeed, it is good to give to the needy; the Lord commands it. Yet, as shown by the lesson of the poor widow who donated but a penny’s worth in the temple, God is more concerned with our hearts than our actions. He wants us to love him first, and love leads to obedience (John 15:10), the kind that drops everything – especially our agendas – to follow Him.
So with the study scenario above, the truth is this: obedience later cannot justify disobedience now; love later will not justify hatred now. The woman’s act of extravagant love for Christ is sandwiched between acts of hatred (the planning and execution of Jesus’ impending murder) in the scripture and thus as readers we see the urgency and appropriateness of her act of anointing. Yet the people with him do not yet understand.
“You will not always have me,” Jesus says.
Who knows what would have happened had you stopped to pray? Maybe your friend Mel who’s been struggling with depression would come to mind. Maybe you’d send her a quick checkup text, to find that she really needed someone right then, and you’d drop your studies and be with her. Maybe you would have failed your final but maybe her life would have been saved. Who knows?
The God of the universe has an agenda more important than ours, one far better for us in the real long run. He is more concerned about creating successful eternal souls than full temporal bellies.
No moment with Jesus is ever wasted. Being with Him is the only state of being.
Chantine Akiyama is a senior at MIT studying Mechanical Engineering. She is alive today because of God’s unrelenting love and certain people who dropped their agendas to love like Christ.