“Mary then took a pound of the very expensive perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”John 12:3
Have you ever been compelled to do something extravagant for God? Maybe it didn’t make sense or was misunderstood. Jesus was visiting His dear friends in Bethany, including Lazarus who had recently been raised from the dead. Martha was busy doing what she did best – serving dinner. Mary entered with a pound of this very expensive perfume – worth a year’s wages for a common laborer.
Mary appears three times in the gospels, each time at the feet of Jesus. She was a great worshiper who knew how to find comfort and sustenance there. Luke 10:39 shares that she “was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” Her sister Martha was frustrated that Mary wasn’t helping her in the kitchen. In John 11:32, a sorrowful Mary “fell at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother (Lazarus) would not have died.’” Now, in John 12, she is in the undignified position of anointing His feet. The text says that she “wiped His feet with her hair.” Reputable women didn’t let their hair down in public. Clearly, Mary was focused on Jesus and was unconcerned with appearances.
Her reckless, sincere abandon stands in stark contrast with Judas, who was all too quick to object to this lavish waste of resources. He piously pontificates about the good this money could have done, but John points out that Judas was truly nothing but a fake and a fraud. His arguments sounded righteous on the surface, and even the disciples found themselves in agreement. However, the truth of his dark side remained hidden for a short time longer.
In this story, there’s Martha the do-gooder, Mary the worshiper, Lazarus the friend, and Judas the self-righteous. Only Mary receives commendation from our Lord. Matthew 26:13 declares, “Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her.” John 12:3 explains that “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Although the object of Mary’s attention was Jesus, all those present that day experienced the aromatic by-product of her act of worship and devotion. May our worship today be characterized by the same sincere abandon so that the fragrance of our worship brings refreshment to a world mired in the stench of sin.