And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Genesis 2:8 ESV
What is a garden? Is it defined by rows of roses and peonies; or is it painted on canvas by the brushstrokes of pathways and fountains? The first garden we learn of was filled with all kinds of fruit trees, and the scriptures tell us that God planted it in Eden. Having spent more hours on my knees pulling weeds than kneeling at the altar in church I have learned that the secret of a garden’s beauty lies as much in the walls that surround it and the spaces between the flowers as in any blossom or leaf. Those boundaries say clearly, “This is my garden and that is the field.” Or “The primroses marching across the flower bed are lovely, but they must be pulled out in places, or they will overrun the foxglove and hollyhock. In his poem, “The Mending Wall” Robert Frost wrote, “Good fence make good neighbors.”. Though Frost himself was not in favor of boundaries, his neighbor was, and I have learned that God is also. God is the gardener of our hearts and the one in charge of order. He sets our limits, prunes our overgrowth and transplants us from time to time when He chooses. Like Jeremiah’s image of the potter and clay, we are all in the hands of the Master Gardener of the universe. It will not help us to whine about the gardening He is doing in us today. We must not only trust in His spiritual gardening skills, but we might want to spend some extra time on our knees next to Him in our garden bed of prayer!
Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil John 12:3
While Hollywood has generally given us the impression that Mary was a young beautiful woman, that may not have been the reality. In that time even poor young beautiful women would have been married and Mary was not poor. While we do not know Mary’s age it seems possible that she and Martha were both widows, living with their brother Lazarus. That would give us an entirely different view than the film version. In this scene we meet a Mary who kept all her savings in that perfume jar. It acted as something of a retirement account. As she grew older with no marital prospects, no way to work or even the right to own property that perfume was all she had besides the kindness of her brother. She was presenting that gift in a single defining moment as her worship and expression of love to the Lord Jesus.
As the fragrance filled the room people began one by one to realize how exorbitant and yes even a little crazy what Mary was doing really was! Her family and friends were shocked but silent. Then one by one the disciples, beginning with Judas, began to protest. “Why wasn’t this sold …and given to the poor?”
But Jesus knew Mary’s heart and while she remained silently at His feet He defended her. Today we have little to describe how Peter or John, Andrew or Phillip worshiped, but Mary’s act remains as the Bible’s best example of how we should be after 2,000 years. In a way that costly perfume continues to fill each of our rooms with its fragrance!