Jesus wants to Set You Free | Wayne Massey
Jesus anointed at Bethany
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about half a litre 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.
4 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.’ 6 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. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’
Jesus wants to set you free
What do we mean when we say that Jesus sets us free? This story gives some pointers to that freedom which can transform us and have an impact on the world around us.
Mary expresses her love and worship of Jesus freely in an act of abandonment and vulnerability. Nothing holds her back from anointing Jesus with a pint of beautiful expensive perfume. If we struggle to be generous or vulnerable in worship, or if we are preoccupied with getting it just right – this same struggle will play out in all kinds of ways in the rest of our life. Jesus can free us from all that, so that we worship God freely and wholeheartedly. What holds you back from worshipping God with all your heart – not just in church but in everyday life?
Jesus also frees us to serve, in such a way that our service comes from a place of knowing we are loved. So often we build our identity on how well we do our work, or how much it is recognised by others. When we find our true identity in Jesus, we are simply glad to serve. And when we are no longer able to serve, that is OK too because our identity is secure in him. Where does your identity lie?
Jesus also frees us from offence. Judas raises a good question about the extravagance of Mary’s gesture, but it does not come from a good place. He is offended – his heart is not in the right place so he doesn’t understand where she is coming from.
I guess we all have times when we feel offended or resentful. When that happens, it’s best to stop and think ‘What is this saying about me? Is this a place where I’ve built my identity on something other than Jesus’ love for me?’ We’re like a road where the snow still lies on the north-facing side, even though it’s melted everywhere else. Little by little, throughout our lives, that snow will melt as we bring ourselves honestly to Jesus at times like this.
We can’t free ourselves from the wrong voices in our heads that stop us giving ourselves generously in worship, or that tell us lies about needing to strive to provide ourselves with an identity. We can’t stop ourselves feeling offended or resentful. But Jesus can. When he died on the cross, Jesus dealt with all the stuff that keeps us un-free. And at Pentecost he sent his Spirit to change our hearts, so that we live out our freedom in the power of his love.
The world needs to see this sort of positive freedom, and it starts with us living free lives. So when people ask, ‘why are you like that?’ we can tell them that it’s because Jesus has saved us and is healing and changing us.