God was moving. In a small village, on the outskirts of a bustling city, God stirred a woman’s heart. Bold, courageous, and obedient to follow the Lord’s prompting to worship Christ before burial, a woman anointed the Messiah. God had chosen her, planned this purposefully, and used it to exalt His Son. A woman’s heart – full of love and adoration for her Savior – glorified Jesus on her hands and knees, face to the floor, and washed His feet with her hair.
I often think, how long did she smell like Him? Would Jesus remember the sweet fragrance while in agony, prayerfully seeking God in the Garden of Gethsemane? If once again the perfume poured forth, would the smell remind Mary of her dedication, her love for Christ? Can you picture this amazing, once in a lifetime, sacrificial scene?
In a little settlement on the hill leading to the Mount of Olives, Bethany houses a leper.1 Bethany – house of affliction or place of unripe figs – is perfectly named, as many who lived there were afflicted with disease.1 As was Jesus’ custom to surround Himself with the invalids of the day, the anointing of Christ before burial is in the home of Simon the Leper. Simon, a man possibly healed by Christ, makes his home available to Jesus whenever He needs. And this celebration, this perfectly placed fellowship meal after Lazarus’ return from the dead, was God’s reveal for a new connection, a new sense of worship, and praise – the curtain was about to be torn in two……
As her hands clasped the beautiful alabaster jar, Mary closed her eyes for a brief moment and could feel His presence from the next room. The love for Him burned in her heart as she carried the perfume to her Lord. The hum of voices stopped as she approached Jesus.
Mary broke the small, delicate jar on the dirt floor. As the nard dripped and poured forth, her eyes locked with His. Cupping the precious liquid, she trickled it down His hair, His face, and His beard. The moment was so pure, so beautiful; it was as if time had stopped for her. Mary could smell the expensive perfume when the bottle cracked and could feel the hard, dirt floor as she knelt down before her King. A sweet aroma permeated the house, as it does to God, when a pure, sacrificial offering is made.
Mary did not hear the disciples’ rebuke, she did not hear the whisperings of the crowd, nor did she see the astonished looks of some. As her own hair dripped with nard, never again would she be able to smell the perfume and not think of Him; the memory of anointing Yeshua would be with Mary forever.
Mark 14:3-9 translates, “While He was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as 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.
‘Leave her alone, said Jesus. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’ ”
John 12:3-8 inscribes, “Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; as keeper of the moneybag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
‘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.’ ”
Mary ignored everyone around her and whatever the men had to say or murmur. She would be obedient, tears and perfume heavily pervading the house. Her lips and hair brushed His face, as she wept with her heart full of love and joy, completely oblivious of how this simple, but spiritually overwhelming task would be penned and written for every Christian woman to read and pray for eternity. It was the promise of Christ, “I tell you the truth, wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
This expensive perfume was probably held for her wedding day. Like a hope chest, Mary had treasured gifts waiting for the special one God had for her. This perfume, held by a woman with a pure heart, pure motive, and obedience toward God, was intended for the wedding ceremony for all mankind. We are the bride of Christ and the church a representation of a beautiful wedding ceremony. We are to come to Him with open arms, a heart ready to spend a lifetime together. God appointed this special task – the first union of a woman coming to her bridegroom – for Mary. How beautiful, how precious God is to bequeath a woman the honor for His Son.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines anoint as “to smear or rub with oil or an oily substance – to apply oil to as part of a religious ceremony.” God was revealing His plan for His people, the Jews, but also Gentiles alike. The Lord’s Son was smeared with precious oil to prepare Him for burial and our new relationship with Yahweh. Public, real, and raw, a new form of worship, praise, and prayer was beginning. The Lord blessed Mary to demonstrate a loving relationship with our King.
The relationship God revealed was His new covenant, His New Testament, and new life in Christ Jesus. Believers would be worshiping the Lord in a new way – direct access to our High Priest. Worship is defined as to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power; to regard with great and extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.2 Christians worship God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in a unique, one-of-a-kind, special, loving, and permanent relationship. We can worship Him anywhere, anytime, and with whomever we want.
Jesus was dedicating His life to God as Mary was dedicating her heart to Him. She anointed, worshiped, and praise Christ publicly, unashamed, and with real emotion. She gave the very best to Him, withheld nothing from Him, and honored Him above all things. God chose a young woman to anoint His Son before burial, demonstrating precious love and sacrifice. It is written in the Word of God for all to read.
What can we take away from Mary of Bethany’s testimony? In a small, quiet village – outside of a palace, prestige, or wealth – a young woman was entrusted and chosen by God to perform a special task. She was attentive and curious, for Mary had sat at the foot of the Messiah and Jesus let her. She was loving and bold, kind and giving. Her heart desired to give the most precious thing she had – her perfume.
As Christian woman, we mimic Mary’s love for Jesus when we give God our very best. We mirror her faith as we fall to our knees in prayer when life is cracked and fractured like her beautiful alabaster jar. We reflect her spirit when we publicly give our hearts in worship to the King of kings no matter the persons present. We permeate a house with sweet prayer to the Lord as Mary filled Simon’s house with a fragrant offering.
It was a woman full of love who anointed the Messiah. It was a woman whom God adored to pour a perfumed gift over His Son before suffering. What are you doing in which God has chosen you for a special, specific task to anoint Jesus? God is moving. My prayer is you are moving with Him.