Easter looms large for the church each year as we celebrate Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection. As we prepare for Easter it is helpful to reflect on an event. In the days leading to Jesus sacrifice we have the oft told story of Mary anointing Jesus with oil. I don’t know about you, but had I been in Jesus’ place I would have been very uncomfortable with this level of public attention and public demonstration. Embarrassment would have likely been my response. Yet Jesus not only accepted the attention, He embraced it. I think there were two reasons for that. Frist, when we view Jesus’ interactions in the gospels He presents as utterly unselfconscious. Second, He knew the prophetic purpose of Mary’s anointing, preparation for His crucifixion and burial.
8 “She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.” Mark 14:8 NKJV
To go deeper let’s set the stage a bit. We know from the different gospel accounts that the event took place at the house of Simon the Leper/Pharisee (the passages from Matthew, Mark and John are below). We can safely conclude that Jesus had healed him or there would have only been the two of them at the meal given the culture of the day! We also know that Judas was Simon’s son (John 12:4) so this event appears to have taken place in his family home. This explains Judas taking such offense when publicly rebuked by Jesus. Judas being the son of a Pharisee also explains his easy access to the religious leaders to betray Jesus.
Having set the stage consider the event. The main characters are Mary and Jesus. The others have a role but Mary takes centre stage by way of her sacrifice. She breaks an alabaster box filled with spikenard. Referred to as spikenard or nard, this costly oil was made from the dried roots and stems of the nard plant and imported from India. Not only does Mary engage in an extravagant financial sacrifice, she engages in an extravagant social sacrifice.
Mary defies convention, and out of love for Jesus violates custom and interrupts both the meal and the discourse. She pours the fragrant oil on Jesus’ head and feet and cleans His feet with her hair. The fragrance would have permeated the room and since she poured it on Him, then rubbed it in, the fragrance would have lingered for days on Jesus’ hair and clothes (They didn’t get up and have a hot shower every day in that time and culture).
Now we come to us. What Mary really poured out on Jesus was her love and devotion and the fragrance spread to others. She was willing to sacrifice to love Jesus and He calls us to do the same. I am confident that Mary was directed by the Spirit in what she did, simply based on Jesus’ response. Mary’s sacrifice cost her something precious that she poured out on someone she considered more precious.
As we are in this season of reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection let’s consider what we have or are willing to sacrifice out of love for Jesus. I know I have poured out my worship on Him, I can’t say that I have loved and worshipped like Mary. When she did this nothing in scripture suggests Mary had any awareness of Jesus pending crucifixion and resurrection. I believe her love for Jesus caused her to act. We don’t know how she felt as she stepped into the room and all eyes turned to her as she broke this box, we do know that her focus was on Jesus not the other guests. Let’s focus on Him and see where it leads us as we seek to leave a lingering fragrance through our worship.
John 12:1–7 (NKJV)
1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.
Mark 14:1–10 (NKJV)
1 After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.” 3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them.
Matthew 26:6–16 (NKJV)
6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” 10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. 12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.
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