Mark 14:1-9 (ESV)
1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” 3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Mark’s biography of Jesus moves to the time of his last Passover. The Jews celebrated the Passover festival every year as they gathered in Jerusalem to remember God’s deliverance of his people from slavery in Egypt. The Passover included sacrificing a spotless lamb in the temple as a substitute for the worshipper’s sin. Before God’s people left Egypt, they were instructed to put the blood of the sacrificed Passover lamb on their doorposts. When the angel of death saw the blood, he would “pass over” the home. Two days before this important celebration, the chief priests and scribes were plotting to arrest and kill Jesus. But now Jesus was with his friends at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, approached Jesus and anointed him with very expensive perfume. It was common to anoint the heads of guests who came for dinner, but this anointing was unusual. The perfume Mary used was worth about a year’s wages. She understood much of what Jesus had previously taught about his impending death, and she was preparing him for burial. The disciples weren’t happy about her wasting the costly perfume on a one-time anointing, but Jesus defended her actions.
As the religious leaders schemed to kill Jesus, a woman was giving her most treasured possession to him in an act of devotion. She took the teaching of Jesus to heart, and she responded with compassion and commitment. She also responded with courage. It was not proper for a woman in the first century to interrupt male fellowship unless she was bringing them food. A woman, Mary couldn’t have held down a job where she earned the kind of money necessary to buy an item of such value. The perfume could have been her entire inheritance. But she broke it open and generously poured it out upon Jesus in an act of love. The disciples accused her of doing a “wasteful thing,” but Jesus commended her for doing “a beautiful thing.” We live in a culture that can be very cynical when we are generous with our money, especially when we give to God. We should be inspired by the example of Mary. She gave, and even though she was mocked as a result, Jesus honored her for her devotion. If you are a follower of Jesus, be generous toward God today. Jesus is worth it!