“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the hometown of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. So they hosted a dinner for Jesus there. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him. Then Mary took about a pint of expensive perfume, made of pure spikenard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:1-3)
“When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and asked, “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold at a high price, and the money given to the poor.”
Aware of this, Jesus asked, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful deed to Me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me. By pouring this perfume on Me, she has prepared My body for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached in all the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:8-13)
It was a tradition in the time of Jesus to anoint the heads of the rabbis who attended marriage feasts with fragrant oil, and very honored guests in your home were sometimes given the same honor. What Mary did was not strange to the onlookers. What really got their attention was the kind of perfume she used.
This was no bottle of artificially scented body spray from Bath and Body Works. This was pure spikenard, a product of the far-away, remote Himalayas, literally the costliest anointing oil of that day. It could be afforded by only the very wealthy, and as a gift was generally reserved for royalty. To put it into perspective, the quantity that the Bible states Mary used would have cost about 300 denarii, which was equivalent at that time to an average year’s wage. In modern-day USA, according to statistics, this would be around $50,000.
Just like that, $50,000 dollars, poured out, gone. This was the incredible depth of Mary’s devotion.
This is the same Mary who lay aside household chores to sit at Jesus’ feet, drinking His every word. This is the same Mary who, distraught with grief for her dead brother, still clung faithfully to her belief in who Jesus was. Where others struggled, Mary seemed to have always comprehended the significance of who Jesus was—and this last recorded act of her devotion was perhaps the most telling of all.
Did she know that she was pouring perfume considered fit for a king upon the feet of the King of kings? Did she know, when He spoke of His burial that day, that it would occur in less than a week? Did she have some premonition that this was likely the last thing she would ever do for Him before His death? Even if she had some inkling, she could not have fully understood.
What she did understand was that no gift was too costly a sign of love for Jesus, and that nothing given to Jesus is ever wasted.
We do not always know, either, the significance or long-reaching impact of things we give sacrificially to Jesus, but this is not the important thing. What is important is that we give freely, like Mary, simply because we love Him. He is worthy!
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)