One-armed baller

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Mark 14:1–11

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

. . . [she] gave of all she had—her wealth, both arms, her hair, her tears—to anoint her Saviour.

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Last night I was inspired. A friend and I went out to play some basketball while our wives had a cell group. We went down to some local courts where they leave the lights on for a while at night. There were people everywhere, young and old, men and women, training on the oval, playing soccer, being coached, jogging alone. It was a place of community and connection, where strangers were united by their common goals of fitness and fun. 

We picked up a half court game, two-on-two, with a guy called Nick and his mate. The unique thing about Nick was that he had only one arm. The other, was missing from about the elbow, ending in a stump. We had seen them practising down the other end of the court before they approached us to play.

“Take it slow, take it easy on us,” they said. We should have asked them the same thing. You see Nick had a killer hook-shot, a decent layup and an accurate three-pointer. For those of you not familiar with basketball parlance, all that means is that he was pretty good. At the end of the day, I walked away with a lot of respect for Nick. His determination, the practise that had gone in, the attitude that it took to go up against the able-bodied, and match it—it left me inspired . . . and challenged.

What have I achieved with two arms? Do I pursue my passions and my work with excellence or do I cruise through with able-bodied complacency? Those questions in themselves challenge me and inspire me to strive harder to defeat mediocrity and abandon procrastination. But what about my spiritual life?

I’ll be honest and say that lately, while I love God and want to be doing His work, I have been lazy in staying close to Him and in tune with His will. I have been letting life happen and drifting with it, rather than swimming against the current and stepping out for my Saviour. He came as the Messiah, the “anointed one”. In a way He was anointed by God at His baptism, with water and a dove, but he was also anointed before His death by this woman, who gave of all she had—her wealth, both arms, her hair, her tears—to anoint her Saviour. She did it regardless of ridicule, judgement and personal cost. She did it because she knew Jesus had given her life and she wanted to give back.

There will be detractors, there will be those that question your motives, mock your sacrifice and never understand. Sometimes they will be those seated around Jesus. They will count the cost, they will doubt and wonder if it is practical or possible. Judas took this as an affront. His focus was on money and not on the greatest treasure that was right in front of him.

But notice the woman’s focus was on Jesus the whole time. She ignored the mockers and made a moment. Is my focus, my passion, my drive on Jesus? Is yours? If Nick can practise and perfect his own one-armed technique, how much are you willing to do with what you’ve been given?

I can achieve great things for Christ and His kingdom, but first I must be willing to give—to give my all—for Him. Notice what Jesus says about this woman. Her story will be told wherever and when ever the gospel is proclaimed. If you want to be the proud owner of a story worth telling, take your everything and give it to Christ. You’ll be amazed at the legacy He can leave through you.