While Jesus was in Bethany, at 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, “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,” Jesus said. “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 for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Jesus only had a matter of days left to live. He knew it. He’d even predicted it. Yet, no one seemed to take note. No one, except one – Mary. While her name is not mentioned in this passage, we know who she is from the story of Lazarus’ resurrection in John 10. Sweet, quiet, reflective Mary had paid close attention to the words of Jesus as she sat at his feet. She grasped what no one else did, the impending death of her Lord. So, Mary responded in ways that no one else would have the courage, or the time, to do following Jesus’ arrest. Thoughtfully, and sacrificially, she took the nard and anointed Jesus.
Some important aspects need to be mentioned.
1) The nard, we’re told, was worth an entire year’s wage. Think of this in modern terms. An average American holding a bachelor’s degree makes around $56,000. That should give you some idea of why those in the room thought her so reckless.
2) The alabaster jar that contained the nard had to have been imported from India. The jar, itself, was also pricey.
3) These items were typically reserved in a woman’s “hope chest,” so to speak for a very special occasion, probably a wedding or even her funeral. It was not uncommon that these things were purchased in advanced and reserved for these occasions. So, Mary was giving to Jesus a very substantial part of her dowry.
4) Once the seal on the jar was broken, the perfume lost its fragrance and its potency. It could not be recycled, used sparingly, and saved for further use.
Mary’s message was clear. Her love for Jesus was worth reckless abandonment to the things the world held dear. She cared not about the scorn, or the harsh rebuke...her thoughts were completely on honoring the one who had meant the world to her. I believe deep in Mary’s heart, she knew what she was doing. Jesus was about to be sacrificed and poured out, how could she not, sacrifice on his behalf? “She has done a beautiful thing to me,” Jesus said. “What she has done will be told in memory of her wherever the gospel is preached.” I have to ask myself, “What beautiful things am I doing for him?” “How sacrificially do I offer the things I hold dear on his behalf?” I am so grateful for grace, yet, I so often find myself fearful of what others might think of my service. It’s hard to love extravagantly when others are watching. Yet, it wasn’t for Mary. Was that a direct result of her time at Jesus’ feet? If so, guess I know where I want to be found more often than not! Courage for abandonment will follow.