Doing What You Can, When You Can

She had sat at the Master’s feet and listened while others had busied themselves around Him. She had quietly meditated on what He had said, seeking to know the secrets things of the Messiah, while others had reacted to and critiqued what He had said, evaluating whether His revelation lined up with their view of the Messiah. So perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that while most had yet to grasp what Jesus meant by, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him” (Mark 9:31), she was ready to anoint His body beforehand for His burial.

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.

(Mark 14:3 ESV)

Mark doesn’t name her, but he seems to be writing of the same incident recorded by John where the woman is identified as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 12:1-8). And what captures my attention about Mary this morning is that, when it came to honoring and serving the Savior, she did what she could when she could.

Mark says that there were some in the room who were choked at such waste (not to mention any names here, but his name begins with a “J” . . . and ends with an “udas”). Three hundred denarii! One year’s salary! That was the street value for the flask of potent perfume that was poured on His head and used by Mary to wipe His feet with her hair. Outrageous! That’s what it was!

Yup, it was. Outrageous. Extravagant. And over the top. All because she did what she could when she could.

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.”

(Mark 14:6-8 ESV)

She couldn’t stop the betrayal. She had no voice before the Jewish tribunal. She would be powerless to appeal the decision of the Roman court. Even to receive His body after it was taken down from the cross and prepare it for burial would be beyond the realm of possibility for her. But what she could do was worship Him when He was in the room. What she could do was bring an offering at great personal cost in response to her shadowed understanding of what the Son of God must do in order to redeem a people to Himself. She could anoint His head. She could wipe His feet with her hair. She could fill the entire house with the bittersweet fragrance of impending death.

Jesus didn’t take note of what she couldn’t do, but of what she could. And I’m thinking there’s application here.

So often I can list the things I wish I could do for the Savior but can’t — whether because of a lack of capability, a lack of opportunity, or a lack of victory over the old nature. But rather than imagine what I could do if I had much to offer my Redeemer, maybe I should be faithful with that which has been apportioned me. The ability to faithfully meet with Him daily . . . the opportunity to use whatever gifting He has graced to me in whatever circumstance He has placed me . . . the tenacity to offer, and re-offer, my body as a living sacrifice–seeking, by His enabling, to crucify the flesh and walk in the power of the Spirit. To take my life, such as it may be, and pour it out for Him who is worthy of all I have to offer. And then hear Jesus say, “He has done a beautiful thing to Me . . . he has done what he could.”

Yeah, I’m thinking it’s about doing what I can when I can.

By His grace . . . for His glory!

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