Navigating her way through the crowded streets, Mary pushed through groups of chattering women, baskets of fresh olives and dates at their sides or perched atop their flowing headdresses. Children darted through, narrowly missing upsetting a cart of eggs. Mary shook her head, her eyes intently scanning the colorful array of booths, carts, and storefronts. Finally, she spotted it, and ducked past a huddle of robed men, their voices rising in some heated theological debate. Entering into the dim light of the shop, she blinked. Slowly, the shelves lined with ornate jars came into focus. For a second, she stopped, and fumbled the contents of her purse, picturing again every piece of jewelry and household item sold, every long evening hour worked scrubbing floors and mending cloaks, every coin she’d begged and borrowed in promise of future work. The feeling was one of excitement, not regret, for it all seemed nothing compared to this moment she had long dreamed of.
She walked confidently over to the leftmost display, picked up a sparkling glass urn, and turned to the seller. “I want to buy this.”
He looked at her suspiciously. Her simple, repeatedly mended gown gave her away. She clearly wasn’t well off. And she was known in these parts.
He looked at her more closely, his black eyes narrowing. “How can I trust you’ll pay me. No credit for you,” then under this breathe, he muttered. “Seedy women. Always buying what they can’t afford and never paying me back.”
“Only if you have the payment now…”
She pulled out the leather purse and pushed it his direction. “All of it,” she straightened up, and looked him in the eye. “It’s different this time. I’ve sold everything to buy it and fully intend to pay you everything at front. It’s for someone … I’m using it all tonight.” She hadn’t intended to tell him as much, and his expression changed from contempt to, could she call it pity?
He came around his bench and put his arm gently on her shoulder. “Mary, we all know around here your reputation with men, and I’m not saying I approve. I could give you this and let you throw away your whole livelihood again on another night in bed with someone. It’d be for my benefit to sell. But, out of compassion, I’m just warning you — it isn’t worth it. You’ve got to think long term. How are you going to support yourself when you’re not young anymore?”
Mary took a deep breath. She loathed her old reputation, following her around like a street dog you fed once but never want to see again. But this was also the chance she’d been waiting for.
“Sir, thank you. I am obliged to your kindness. But you don’t understand. That’s not me anymore. I’m a new person. The demons …” she winced even mentioning them. “They’re gone. And I belong to someone else now, someone I love far deeply than I ever thought I was capable of. I’ve been contemplating this purchase for months, it’s all I can think about, and I can’t wait to give it to him. For some reason I sense he needs it … His name is Jesus.”
I’ve long pondered the story of Mary Magdalene, pouring out a year’s wages on Jesus’ feet and wiping them with her hair. She was the once infamous, demon-possessed prostitute everyone avoided at arm’s length impudently entering an elite home where she was shunned. I admire Mary’s forethought, the deep love for Christ to caused her to work and save and dream of anything, everything she could offer him as a small token of an overflowing heart. And that small token became an emblem, not only of her humble love but much more of preparation for his nearing death.
And what about me? If Christ is not physically here, what can I give Him that would be considered waste to the world but precious to His heart? I was pondering this question recently after a message on Mark’s account of this story. Truly the only thing is a surrender of my whole life, whole heart, whole being.
Yet practically, what the Lord laid on my heart was time. I can get so rushed getting my ‘to-do’ lists completed or even engaging in ministry that I forget the One Thing Needful: to sit at his feet and simply worship Him, unhurried. The very fact that the world calls such time a waste when there are things to do, money to make, accomplishments to achieve makes it all the more precious, for He is so much more worthy to us than anything this world has to offer.
A word from Hudson Taylor in a little gem of a book called Union and Communion:
“Our attention is here drawn to a danger which is preeminently one of this day: the intense activity of our times may lead to zeal in service to the neglect of personal communion… Let us never forget that what we are is more important than what we do; and that all fruit borne not of abiding in Christ must be fruit of the flesh.”
Ask the Lord what your humble offering of worship may be. Whether He bids us sell all to move to some foreign country or pour out our lives raising children or serving faithfully in a local body, the One Thing Needful remains. For my heart, that call is to ‘be done with lesser things’ and treasure focused, intimate time with Him. Because He is worth all of it.