Read Mark 14:3-11
3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Today’s Holy Week passage give us an account of what true, unhindered worship looks like. In Middle Eastern homes during Jesus’s life, meals were typically eaten on low tables and guests sat on the floor. While Jesus, the Son of God, could be in the homes of kings and queens, He chooses to lounge in the homes of outcasts. Simon was a Leper, a social reject because of his illness. Earlier in the Gospel accounts, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). This passage is a perfect example of how Christ lives this out; He draws near to us in our sin. Not only does Christ love us in His preaching, teaching, and instruction, but also in fellowship.
While the passage from Mark does not name the woman with the nard, John’s account of the story identifies her as Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha. As readers in the 21st century, it is easy to detach ourselves from the time period of the story, but the kind of love Mary embodies is timeless. Pure nard was extremely expensive (costing a year’s wages) and was often passed down in a family as an heirloom. Mary’s use of this luxury was reckless, or at least the disciples thought so. Nard came in a sealed jar, and the bottle had to be broken in order to be used. It was an “all in” type of item. This reflects our walk with Jesus. Just as Mary gives everything she has to Jesus, so too are we, as Christians, to let our whole lives be guided by a strong desire to love God more.
The disciples respond harshly to Mary’s loving act, but Jesus defends her. Loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind is the first and greatest commandment, and Mary does just that. Unlike the disciples, Mary understood that her resources weren’t meant for her but for her God. Our time, money, and relationships are all parts of our lives that we can use to either serve God or ourselves. Let’s answer these questions to further our understanding of how to live more like Mary, with a rich love for Jesus.
Is there anyone in your life that you think loves Jesus like Mary? How can you encourage them today?
Do you make time to “recline” with Jesus? How can you intentionally rest with the Lord this week?
- What in your life do you need to shift your perspective on in light of Jesus?
Did You Know?
When the text refers to a year’s wages, it actually comes out to around 300 days worth of work because they didn’t count Sabbaths and feast days!
5 thoughts on “Wednesday”
Yesterday, we read of the poor widow who gave all she had when she threw a couple of coins into the collection box, in contrast today we read of a woman who anoints Jesus with expensive perfume in preparation for his burial. Recall that this woman, Mary, had sat intently at the feet of Jesus loving, listening and learning from him when he visited her home. She was chastised by her sister, Martha, for not helping with hosting their friend. Jesus replied to Martha that, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 12:42). It appears that Mary steadily grew in her affections for her Lord as is displayed in this beautiful, unselfish act of worship. She is chastised again by those closest to Jesus, his disciples. I’m reminded that Jesus ultimately looks at the heart of the giver. It has been said that “the essence of worshipping Christ is to regard him with utmost love, respect, and devotion and be willing to sacrifice to him what is most precious.” It’s about surrender of what we hold most dear in exchange for a priceless relationship that resonates into eternity.
What would it look like to love like Mary now? Giving when and where God directs? Most likely we would see this person as foolish. Would they waste time sitting, being still, reading, praying, giving, probably working in and with homeless, some kind of shelters, or lower income folks? Would they volunteer at the church, help with shepherding life groups, lead a regen group, or maybe work with single moms, and/or foster kids? Would they visit the persons they know are sick, maybe take a meal to them or to family that is struggling? I am not sure what this person would look like today? It sounds like a little bit of many I know but wow do I fall short. Inspiration for sure to truly “recline” with Jesus and surrender what we hold most dear.
God thank You for me not holding fast to ‘stuff”. Thank You that I can surrender to You daily what I am holding most dear. Thank You for leading me to Love Your people here and now, showing them who You are through my life. God Thank You to the utmost for Your best gift, Jesus,, to pay for my sins so that I can be Your daughter. Thank You for helping me to change my world so that it is worthy of Your Love in Jesus name amen
When I studied this story in John 12 the main point that spoke to me this time was that Mary did not respond to the accusations. In all the gospels, there is not a response from her recorded. She faithfully kept her eyes on Jesus. She let Jesus be her defender. She stayed obedient in giving back what she was blessed to receive. She was showing us that all we have belongs to Jesus. I like how Tony Evans said it, “We are blessed to be a blessing. The blessing was not meant for you, but for you to steward the blessing to others.”
Mary was honored to do what we are called to do in such a beautiful way…and to the King himself.
Mary’s uninhibited gratitude towards Jesus is beautiful to see. She had a truer view of Jesus’ deity than most, as she had recently watched him resurrect her brother Lazarus from death in a tomb. John 11 details the events and gives further insight into Mary’s devotion to her Lord. The reality of Lazarus’ resurrection threatened the standing of the Jewish leaders and inflamed their jealousy, resulting in a heightened threat on Jesus’ life and ministry.
Mary’s devotion challenges me- in what ways am I pouring out my limited time and money on lesser things than Jesus?
I’ve been diving into these lessons with some help from David Guzik’s “Enduring Word” podcast. His message on this passage had some really powerful takeaways:
“She Did What She Could”
What can we learn from Mary’s gift?
1. It was COSTLY (vs. 3,5).
2. It was SACRIFICIAL (v. 5). Something of great earthly value and practical purpose was given up for God.
3. It was EXTRAVAGANT. Mary could have used a few drops of oil, but instead she used it ALL.
4. It was PERSONAL. Mary did this herself, by her own hand. (My thought: worship is not something we can delegate.)
5. It was HUMBLE. Mary’s act was performed quietly, without fanfare, and without any regard for what others might think about it. She did not concern herself with either the praise or the censure of man.
“Sometimes we leave ourselves open to criticism when we love Jesus with great abandon. If that criticism has never been leveled at you, maybe you need to take another look at your life!“
6. It was TRUSTING. Mary did not explain or defend her actions before others. Instead she looked to Jesus.
7. It was TIMELY. Mary “did what she could” in that moment, making the most of the opportunity before her.
8. It was LASTING. While such a costly treasure was often preserved and handed down as a family heirloom, Mary chose instead to leave behind a different kind of memorial—one we recognize and honor even today.
What memorial will I leave? Will it be marked by love and devotion?
Meanwhile, this story is set in contrast to Judas’s actions, which were marked by selfishness and greed.
Finally, it was WILLING. This was not something Mary was commanded to do; both she and Judas acted of their own free will.
Oh God, that you would break open our hearts and let that fragrant oil bless you!