Anointing Jesus with Extravagant Love: Mary’s Undeterred Worship

She approached him quietly, her heart simultaneously bursting with love and breaking with grief. Amid the clatter of plates and chatter of conversation, she proceeded unnoticed until the undeniable fragrance overpowered the aroma of fresh bread and roasted meat. As her fingers spread the expensive perfumed oil through his hair, all heads turned toward Jesus. All eyes gaped at Mary of Bethany.

Can you sense the shock in the room at the audacity of her personal intimacy?

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.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. Mark 14:3-5

Mary heard none of the sharp criticism scrutinizing the extravagant excess. She saw only Jesus. She alone detected the serious urgency in Jesus’ voice when he repeatedly predicted his approaching death.

That he would be taken from them broke her heart.

That he would be crucified was unthinkable.

Mary desperately needed to express the depth of her love.

Jesus had welcomed her into His circle as equal to the disciples – she listened and learned at His feet. He was like a brother in the home she shared with Martha and Lazarus. And hadn’t Jesus recently restored life to their dead and buried brother Lazarus?

How can she express such love?

As a resident of the Roman Empire, she knew crucifixion. As a Jewish woman, she also knew the customs for preparing a body for burial. So Mary used a year’s wages to purchase the most extravagant gift. And that evening, as if she and Jesus were alone in the room, she knelt shamelessly to rub the scented oil onto his feet and unpinned her hair in order to absorb the excess.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” John 12:7-8

Mary saw the cross approaching and anointed Jesus with adoring, tender, intimate, extravagant love. Can you imagine giving yourself so completely?

Mary worshiped Jesus undeterred and undistracted.

My heart swells at her worship. I’m drawn to her abandon. The dinner guests focused on the expense, but I think they were uncomfortable with Mary’s display.

How would you respond?

‘Love’ is too weak a word to capture Mary’s sentiment. Perhaps the psalmist more accurately describes her physical need and soulful longing.

You, God, are my God,
[diligently, earnestly] I seek you;
I [suffer thirst] for you,
my whole being [faints with longing] for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 (definitions added)

By adoringly worshiping Him, Mary left that evening smelling like Jesus and the scent certainly lingered on her soul for many years.

As we walk toward Holy Week, we too approach the cross.

  • How will you express your love for Jesus?
  • Will you adore Him with extravagance and shameless devotion?
  • Will the smell of Jesus linger on your soul?

For me, sometimes a song expresses my love better than I can. I experienced worshiping with extravagant love in Cambodia. And, finally, here’s a way to smell more like Jesus.

#SeedsofScripture #HolyWeek #humbleyourself #thirstforgod #worshipthelord #MaryofBethany


  1. Michele Banister on March 23, 2023 at 6:44 PM

    Such love expressed at that time. Thank you for the beautiful reminder.

    • CathyChung on March 24, 2023 at 10:09 AM

      Thanks for reading and commenting. That kind of love comes from deep within – you can’t manufacture it.

  2. J.D. Wininger on March 27, 2023 at 7:25 AM

    Is He always deserving of our extravagant love? Isn’t that exactly what He gives us? Do I always give to Him my best? A mixture of yeses and nos the break my heart with truth revealed. What a powerful post Ms. Cathy. Oh, how I cherish those moments when I am alone with my Savior, wrapped in His embrace. He softly whispers His love for me as He pours out His love upon me. So unworthy.

    • CathyChung on March 27, 2023 at 7:31 PM

      Take comfort in knowing every single person’s answer is a mixture of giving God our best and not. We’re not capable on our own and it can never match His love for us – not even close. Yes to those precious moments when we feel His love pouring over us!

  3. Connie Wohlford on March 27, 2023 at 8:17 AM

    Jesus’ unfailing, unconditional love for us cannot be measured. Mary desperately tried to show Him love in kind, and did her very, very best, knowing her expression could never be enough. Her tears completed her precious sacrifice. Jesus graciously received with full understanding and blessed her.
    Thank you for this insightful message.

    • CathyChung on March 27, 2023 at 7:27 PM

      She offered her very best. It touches my heart. What will I offer?

  4. Stephanie Pavlantos on March 27, 2023 at 8:42 PM

    A beautiful story, beautifully written! Thank you for sharing!

    • CathyChung on March 27, 2023 at 9:03 PM

      Thank you Stephanie. That’s encouraging from you – love your podcast and have learned so much from your guests. I’m so interested in the original context and meaning. Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Spend a few minutes to plant a quick Seed. Or stay longer and plant a whole garden.

Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts.  If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.
Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts. If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.

Receive Seeds of Scripture by email.

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.