Written by Margaret Passmore
Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 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. John 12:1-3
Bethany, which was located just outside of Jerusalem, served as a home base of sorts for Jesus and His disciples during the final days of His earthly ministry. And as we come to today’s story, we are told that Jesus was having supper at the house of some of his closest friends who lived in Bethany. Martha being Martha of course was serving the meal, and Lazarus together with other un-named guests was sitting at the table with Jesus. And we can only imagine that, as Mary saw her brother sitting at the supper table, eating and talking and laughing with his friends, her heart just became overwhelmed with thankfulness, as she thought of how differently it might have been, if Jesus had not come to them, when they so desperately needed him. Do you remember how Mary and Martha sent for Jesus when their brother was desperately sick, and how Jesus raised him from death? Well to be sure Mary was thinking, Lazarus would not have been sitting here now, if Jesus had not come. And more than anything else, Mary wanted to show Jesus just how much she loved Him, and just how much she appreciated everything that He had done not only for her, but for her whole family. But how should she show her gratitude? What could she possibly do for Jesus, that would even compare to the gift of life He had given to her?
And then she thought of that jar. She thought of that expensive jar of perfume – that family heirloom, which had probably been locked away in a cupboard for years. And she went quietly, and unlocked the cupboard door, and carefully lifted out that alabaster jar, and she broke it open, and she emptied its contents all over the feet of Jesus, and then she carefully wiped his feet with her hair. What a beautiful picture of love and devotion. Had Mary too been given some insight into what was about to happen to Jesus, and was she anointing Him in preparation for His burial? Mark’s account of this story would suggest that she had. The perfume we are given to understand was made from a rare plant, and it would have cost an ordinary man a year’s wages to purchase that jar. And so, what Mary offered to Jesus, was not cheap by any means. It was the very best she had.
Many years before this event, when David, King of Israel was made a generous offer of free oxen from a man called Araunah to sacrifice unto the LORD, David refused and said, “Nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). Although Araunah had a good heart, David was not looking for the cheapest way possible to worship God. Bible commentator Adam Clarke wrote, “He who has a religion that costs him nothing, has a religion that is worth nothing. And F.B. Meyer wrote, “Where there is true, strong, love to Jesus, it will cost us something.”
Jesus commended Mary’s act when others criticized it, and surely His receiving of Mary’s gift indicates that it is appropriate for us to be extravagant in our giving to Him too.
“If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him” C.T. Studd