I’m typing this on Wednesday morning, and on the Wednesday of the Biblical account of Holy Week, there was a dinner in a town called Bethany, with a fairly large group of people (the scriptures mention 17 people by name but there could have been more).
All of the people at this dinner party had been blessed by Jesus in one way or another. Simon was no more a leper thanks to Jesus, the twelve disciples had the awesome privilege of being called to be apostles, Lazarus had been raised from the dead, Martha and Mary had been given their beloved brother back from the grave, and so on...
Mary was there and yet, I’m guessing she felt a little out of place.
She, unlike the rest, was now in a situation where her entire life revolved around Jesus and constant remembrance the life he had called her out of. Despite being publicly forgiven by Jesus, that’s still not a label or reputation you can just shake off and expect people to forget it ever happened, ESPECIALLY in the first century. While Jesus was at the table, she was compelled to do something extravagant- something irrational, something far exceeding what was called for. She ran to her house, and got one of her most valuable possessions: an alabaster flask containing a pound of pure oil of spikenard.
Spikenard is a root that grows only in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal and it was very expensive. It is estimated that this bottle of fragrant oil was worth about $15,000.
Yes, that’s right, I said it, FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.
What could be done with $15,000?
What objects could be obtained, or what charitable causes could be funded with $15,000?
But Mary was only thinking about ONE THING.
She hurried back to Simon’s home where she broke — not opened, mind you, but broke — the alabaster flask and poured the entire contents upon Jesus’ head.
“And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”
And the criticism began…
“Why this waste?”
“What was the purpose of this excessive extravagance?”
“This oil could have been sold and given to the poor.”
“FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!!”
“Don’t you care about the poor?”
“If you really knew what is important you wouldn’t be wasting God’s money on such things.”
“You just don’t have any common sense; you need to become more practical.”
“It’s a sin to waste things, you know.”
Then Jesus spoke up…
“LEAVE HER ALONE! STOP CRITICIZING HER!”
“She has done a good work for Me. She’s done what she could.”
“She has anointed my body for burial.”
Judas had been the ringleader of the criticism, yet others had joined in- and just for the record, if I’m being honest, I probably would have been among the chorus of voices questioning her decision.
Just saying. but...“She has anointed My body for burial.”
Did anyone really hear those words? I don’t think so. But later they remembered them.
Within 36 hours Jesus would be accused, sentenced, whipped, beaten, marched down the Via Dolorosa, and nailed to a cross to die.
Spikenard is a very powerful fragrance- its scent would linger for days.
I can’t prove it, but I like to think that this fragrance provided Jesus with some sense of comfort as he was sweating blood in Gethsemane, being scourged at Gabbatha, and suffering in Golgotha.
Jesus said wherever the gospel is preached, Mary’s extravagant offering, and the scent of her act of worship will be told as a memorial to her.
My prayer during Holy Week is that I would be more like Mary; that we would ALL be more like Mary.
May we live with such a deep sense of gratitude for how Jesus has forgiven, rescued, and delivered us.
May that gratitude spill over into extravagant worship and generosity, that others might hear the stories of Jesus and all the amazing things he has done and continues to do now.
May we anoint Jesus this week (and every week) with the precious oil of our prayers, our tears, our devotion, our worship and our generosity.
May we “waste” our lives on the One who poured out His life for us.
Have a blessed week everyone, we are praying for you in this crazy season...
Please let us know if you need ANYTHING.
Pastor Chris Cahall
Chris loves Jesus & despises religion. Journey with him to dig a little deeper into your faith.