Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 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 money bag, 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.”
My mom loves to light candles when there she has company. They are always the scented ones. Soon the entire house smells of those candles. The same kind of thing is happening here in Bethany.
Jesus has been invited to a party that his friends are putting on. Martha is in the kitchen as usual, bossing people around making sure that everything is perfect for her guests. Lazarus, now famous in the tiny village, is at the table, being asked questions about death and his resurrection (a story for another time). Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet learning and listening to every word he is saying. Mary and Martha are surprisingly getting along (again a story for another time).
All of a sudden, Mary gets up out of her usual spot, rushes to what could have been a security vault in those days, grabs the most expensive object in the house, the bottle of nard, and dumps it all on Jesus’ feet. Other Gospels say that she used her hair to spread it around. Soon, like the smell of a really strong candle in my mom’s home, the smell of the nard filled the house.
Many of the party goers questioned this decision on Mary’s part. it had taken a year’s wages to purchase the expensive stuff and it was wasted on someone’s feet.
Oil in the Bible has significant meaning. Much of the time it was used to anoint royalty. Those chosen by God to rule. Examples include King Saul and King David. It was used during the Burial process of a person to keep the body from smelling so bad as it decayed. After Jesus’ ascension it would be used in anointing those who needed healing.
Okay, history lesson aside, let’s get back to Bethany.
Judas Iscariot smelled the scented oil, knew immediately what it was and its worth and raised the question on everyone’s mind. Why had this happened and why was this not sold and given to the poor. Judas had other motives for posing the question. You see, Judas was the group money keeper and John states that Judas often stole from the group for his own needs. I imagine he had money signs in his eyes when smelled the nard and then realized that it had gone to, what he thought, was waste.
Jesus on the other hand, saw what Mary did for her true intentions. An act of worship and of sorrow. This may well be the last time that these two met here on earth before the death. Yes it was expensive, but totally worth every penny in Mary’s eyes.
Let me tell you something, that fragrance would linger for days after this event ended, a constant reminder of what had happened.
How will you pour you love and worship out to Jesus in a way that causes long lasting effects on those around you?
How will you account for others who worship God in a way that you see as wasteful? Will you question, like Judas, or appreciate with understanding like Jesus?
What kind of anointing will you do? Humbly or Selfishly?