In the season of Lent on Sunday the 13th of March 1938 Pierre Maury stepped up with a heavy heart to preach in the Reformed Church in Passy, Paris. The allotted passage for that Sunday was the passage from Mark’s gospel chapter 14 recounting the occasion at Bethany when a woman with “an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard…broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head” verse 3. The reason for Maury’s heaviness of heart was that on that same day Hitler had proclaimed at Linz the annexation of Austria to the ‘Reich’.
As he concluded his sermon that fateful morning Pierre said:
In preparing this message I could not stop myself from being often assailed by all the anguish that weighs so heavily on our hearts. And I asked myself if I shouldn’t have gone looking in the Bible for another word of life than that of the broken vase for what we are going through at the moment. And then in meditating on this passage, I understood it is precisely in these times where we are, that it has something to say to us – I understood why it is part of the gospel record and why it needs to be preached today as good news. It is because it is speaking to us of our joy.
For the gesture of this woman from Bethany was an act of joy, because it was an act of love, an act which gave joy, because it came from a soul who had really understood that she was loved. And that is all that Jesus wants us to understand. His joy, may we understand it – is also our joy. – For his joy, is our joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11.)
There are lots of distressing things at the moment. And we cry out to God from the depths of this distress. But there is also something joyful, a great and sure joy; that we can give to the Lord Jesus Christ! And this joy, nothing can affect it, nor take it away from us. It is His joy.
And now we are going to sing to God a hymn of trust in the face of and despite everything. So that we may sing it sincerely and joyously, may God graciously permit that it may be the hymn that secretly, from deep down inside us, we have decided to give to Jesus Christ, for Him, only for Him. And so the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7.)