I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about.The truth is, I don’t want to know.
Somethings are best unsaid
I like to think that they were singing about something so beautiful that it can’t be expressed in words and makes your heart ache because of it.
I tell you those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a great place dares to dream.
It was like some beautiful bird flew into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away
And for the briefest of moments every last man at Shawshank felt free.
These are the words accompanying a scene in the prison film, Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufrane, now trusted by the Warden, throws away all of the privileges he has earned in order to give a gift to his fellow inmates. Seeing his opportunity, he hijacks the PA system of the prison and plays an aria from a Italian opera. The collective heads of the prison listen, half cocked, to a beauty they have been deprived of for many years. The price of this extravagance was the severe beating of Andy Dufrane and two weeks locked alone in solitary confinement. But the notes of that song filled up the whole prison.
Have you ever been confronted by beauty?
Have you ever wondered why the rising and setting of the sun is so captivating?
Did God need to make it so beautiful?
Why can people stare and look at the Grand Canyon for hours at a time?
Does God want to distract us from the work he has given us to do?
What is it that draws us to music concerts, art museums, and National Parks?
What inside of us is overtaken by these things.
Things like the smell of that perfume filled the whole of Mary’s house?
I imagine myself being in that house and wondering what that smell is that filled the whole house. I’m sure may had never smelled something like that before, just like those prisoners in Shawshank. We are told this was not cheap perfume. $50,000 dollars. That’s how much that bottle of perfume would cost in today’s money. How Mary got it, we don’t know. They didn’t have 401k’s or pensions back then so maybe this served as something like a retirement fund. One pound of nard. I’m sure a few drops would have been fine. But Mary needed this to be a bold statement. She would only get one chance. She needed to be bold. And she was.
You see, women didn’t touch men in this time. It violated the social norms. It would have been scandalous. Mary’s actions were reckless. She was literally making a spectacle of herself. And here she is in front of everyone, touching Jesus. Using her hair to touch oh no, not those.
Yes, his feat. And these were not feet kept in nice shoes and socks in Spirit Lake. They were walking through, agricultural society, pre-waste water treatment system, sandal walking feet. This was not just distasteful, this was disgraceful and disgusting.
And let’s circle back to the price. This might have been the wealth of not just Mary, but her whole house. And she pours not just a few drops, not just an ounce. But the whole dang thing.
Mary has put it all out there. She’s poured out her whole self – financial, social, emotional – for what? She has dumped the most precious thing not only to her but perhaps to her whole family recklessly and extravagantly out on the floor over some feet. She has done this for Jesus. She has done it to get his attention. She wants to show her love for him.
And although Jesus has a special place in his heart for poor, he rebuffs the criticism from Judas. He appreciates what Mary has demonstrated. He loves how Mary has loved. Because she has loved has he loves.
Mary has found someone so precious that she is willing to pay with everything she has to get his attention. Mary has found something worthwhile extravagance, in Jesus. And this is how God loves.
Because God has found an extravagance.
And that extravagance is you.
God loves you so much that he is willing to pour out the all that he has, even his own life, to get your attention.
This is the testimony of the sunset.
This is the hymnody of the mountaintops,
This is the gospel of all beauty:
That God so love the word that he gave his only begotten son that you might not parish be have everlasting life.
That God loves you so much that he is willing to make a spectacle of himself to get your attention.
That one who has everything in the universe to give has given it all up for you.
As we come within two weeks of Easter, I hope you will keep a vigil for beauty.
In the midst of a broken world I pray you keep watch for extravagant love.
Keep watch for God who is pursuing your attention with reckless love.
Prepare yourself for what he will say once he has been poured out.
Because he has paid a great price to get your attention.