Until my children and I read and discussed various accounts of the Crucifixion and Resurrection last week, I never realized that Mary anointed Jesus with her precious perfume just a few days prior to the Crucifixion – quite intentionally, as it happened.
On what turned out to be the day before Palm Sunday, the family so dear to Jesus – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany – prepared supper for him, his disciples, and others. During the meal, a tearful Mary poured a pound of expensive spikenard ointment over the head and feet of Jesus.
Then, her tears falling onto Jesus’ feet, she kissed them and wiped them with her hair.
Each gospel recounts different details of this story, but Matthew, Mark, and John include the disciples’ indignation that such a “waste” was made of this ointment, as it was worth a year’s wages.
And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. – Mark 14:4, 5
On the surface, the disciples as a whole seemed to have a legitimate point (except for Judas, whose only interest was in pocketing part of the profits from the potential sale of the ointment). After all, they had spent three years with Jesus as he ministered to the poor and the outcasts of society – even to Gentiles, on occasion.
But the disciples apparently remained clueless about Jesus’ ultimate purpose, his mission from the Father: his death and resurrection for the salvation of mankind.
For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. – Matthew 26:11
Yet, Jesus had already revealed that fact to his disciples in no uncertain terms.
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. – Matthew 16:21
But Mary, who had learned long ago that listening to Jesus was even more important than serving him or ministering with him, grasped what would soon happen to her dear Lord. And so, she anointed him in preparation for his coming suffering and death, lavishing upon him the most precious thing she possessed, worth thousands of dollars in today’s currency.
And then, she took upon herself the role of a lowly servant, cleansing his feet with her tears and her hair.
She may have imagined what a stir her actions might create, how she would be chided and misunderstood. But, willing to act alone, she did what she knew to be right.
Many life-changing lessons may be learned from Mary’s attitude and actions.
She came to know and love Christ by listening to him. He was always her priority.
She freely gave him the most precious thing she had.
She served him despite being misunderstood by other godly people.
She humbled herself before him, recognizing his character and worth.
I don’t know if I’ve ever needed to take such extreme action for Christ, to break my own alabaster box of sorts, but I will continue to meditate upon Mary’s actions and strive to be more like her, should those opportunities arise.
Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. – Psalm 4:4
Do you see other lessons in Mary’s story? Have you ever broken an alabaster box for Jesus?