Then Mary took a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:3
It is Passover week in Jerusalem and Jesus has been spending time everyday teaching at the temple. After a long day Jesus returns to Bethany where he spends each night. On this evening He is at the home of Simon the Leper; possibly someone Jesus had healed from leprosy. He is surrounded by friends as they recline at a table; his disciples and Lazarus are also there and Martha hovers nearby as she serves them dinner.
Into this scene steps Mary, Martha’s sister, and in her hands is an alabaster jar of expensive perfume. She holds the precious item carefully in her work roughened hands as she makes her way to where Jesus is. Mary wanted to bless Jesus, as He had blessed her, she wanted to show Him how much she loved Him, and she wanted to do this in front of her family and friends; making a public declaration of her love and devotion for her Lord.
What did she have to give to Jesus that was worthy of Him? Maybe this perfume was Mary’s dowry, to be given to her future husband. If it was her dowry that would have indeed been a sacrifice of love to the Lord. It’s as if she was saying, “I give You all my hopes and dreams for the future. You are more important to me than anything this world has to offer”.
Mary breaks the jar and pours some of the perfume on Jesus’ head. Did Mary say anything? What was she thinking? Maybe she whispered her love to Jesus, or thanked Him for His mercy to her, whatever it was Mary realized it wasn’t enough. She falls to her knees crying and pours the remaining perfume on His feet. As she cries, she unbinds her hair and lets it cascade around her, something a respectful woman does not do in public. But Mary’s complete focus is on Jesus, not on the shocked faces of the people around her.
She bends over the feet of the one she loves and rubs the oil into His skin. Anointing was a common practice at feasts, but attending the feet was a servant’s job, the guests felt embarrassed at this emotional and extravagant display. The room falls into a quiet hush, as the house became filled with the fragrance of perfume and the heart-breaking display of Mary’s love.
What a risk Mary takes to give up her expensive perfume for Jesus. I’m sure she thought long and hard about this discussion before she did it. It wasn’t a whim or a passing fancy. She wanted to give something to Jesus that would honor Him and show Him her heart. She wanted it to be a sacrifice. Would this gift affect her chances of getting married? Possibly. But the scripture makes it clear that she was thrilled to give it, to bless Jesus with it, and unbeknownst to her, she was following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 12:7, “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.”
Am I a risk taker where Jesus is concerned? Am I ready to sacrifice my hopes and dreams to show Jesus my love and devotion? Am I willing to look silly or improper as I tell people of my love for Jesus? To feel uncomfortable, criticized, foolish or lowly in front of others as I follow the leading of the Holy Spirit?
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for always taking the path of least resistance, for watching out for my reputation more than Yours and for hesitating to give You all of me. Help me focus on You and my love for You, over my worry about what other people would think. I desire O Lord to be more like Mary, constantly worshiping at your feet in love. I love you Lord. Amen.