John 12:7-8 – "Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." (NIV)
A friend of mine used to talk about a quotation from Chapter 20 of "The Catcher In The Rye" by J.D. Salinger: "Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody." The implication of the speaker, Holden Caulfield, is that flowers are useless to the deceased at a funeral, because the dead person cannot smell, touch, or see them. This suggests that we often leave things too late in life, and that the true moment for sending flowers, giving compliments, and heaping praises needs to happen when people are actually alive to appreciate them. At funerals, we often say many good and complimentary things about the dead, all of which would have been wonderful for them to hear or read when they were alive.
Jesus talks about this when Mary pours all that expensive perfume over Him. It was an amazing gift to lavish upon Jesus, but it was her way of thanking Him for restoring her brother Lazarus to life. She wanted Jesus to know about her appreciation, and she wished Him to experience this when He was alive. Perhaps, intuitively, Mary knew that this would be about the last time she would see Him enjoying company at her house.
Every day, we get the opportunity to praise and thank other people for what they do in our lives. Quite often, we leave those complimentary words unspoken and unexpressed. It's only when people move away, or we lose touch, or when they die, that we begin to realize how much we miss them.
So perhaps today, someone somewhere could do with a letter of thanks, a call to encourage them, or even an unexpected bunch of flowers. After all, what's the use of flowers when they're gone?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You appreciated Mary's loving gift and saw it as a generous and beautiful gesture. Help us today to seek someone who means so much to us, and show them our appreciation. Give us a heart to encourage and embrace them, to thank and truly value them. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.