This post is from the Christ Fellowship Easter Devotion, "We Have Seen His Glory." To download the entire devotional, click here.
We turn now to an event that happened the day before Jesus came into Jerusalem. The gospel of John tells us that it happened six days before the Passover. Matthew and Mark place the story at this point because of the topic rather than the time line. As each day passes in this holy week, Jesus is getting closer and closer to his crucifixion. And as he spend time preparing for the cross, Jesus’ beloved friend Mary will prepare him for the grave.
We are told that while Jesus was in the village of Bethany, he was reclining at table together with his disciples and dear friends. At some point during the meal, Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, came to where Jesus was sitting and anointed him with oil. She broke a flask of oil and poured it upon his head and feet. The oil, we are told, was made from spikenard, a very expensive type of ointment. The flask would no doubt have been very precious to Mary. Perhaps it was a family heirloom. Perhaps it was a prized gift. Mark tells us that the flask was the value of about three hundred denarii, which was close to the wages an average person would have earned in a year. And the flask was made so that once it was broken the perfume must be used. It was like breaking the seal on a $30,000 bottle of wine! This isn’t something you do by accident.
It makes sense that the disciples, especially Judas, who was in charge of the finances for the disciples, would be upset over this action. What a waste! Think about how many hungry mouths that could have fed. Think about how many cloaks that could have bought for the naked. Think about how many debts that could have paid off. But Mary wasn’t thinking about the poor. Her heart was fixed on another. Jesus turned to his disciples and scolded them. The poor would always be around. But Christ would not be with them much longer. Mary saw clearly what they failed to see – that Jesus would soon lay down his life for the sins of people. And she wanted him to be ready.
An oil like this would have no doubt been very potent, especially if the whole bottle was poured upon someone. During all the events of the holy week Jesus would have been covered with the aroma of this perfume. Anyone who came near would have smelled it. It could have been smelled on him as he rode into Jerusalem, as he cleared the temple, and as he debated with the religious leaders. His disciples could have smelled it as they ate the Passover, as Jesus washed their feet, and as he taught them in on the Mount of Olives. The men that arrested him, the council that tried him, and the guards that beat him would all have smelled it. And to every single person it would have been a familiar aroma – the aroma of someone prepared for burial. Jesus knew that he would soon lay down his life to death. And he rejoiced at Mary’s costly act of love that will forever be remembered.