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