In Mark 14:1-10 is an account about our Lord Jesus receiving His last deed of love in His life on earth. Jesus was anointed at Bethany by a woman (her name is mentioned as Mary in John 12:3) at the home of his host as they were having dinner.
What did this woman do for Jesus to say “she has done a beautiful thing to me.”? She broke an alabaster jar containing a very expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ head. John recorded for us the amount was a pint which was worth a year’s wages at market rate then. According to the Jewish custom, when a guest comes into your home or sits down to a meal, the host must sprinkle perfume on the body of the guest as a form of respect. I would think that this woman must have treated Jesus as a very important guest and worthy for much respect because she poured all the perfume on Him alone. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Everyone in the room also received the benefit of her action.
Interestingly, this passage of Jesus’ anointing was being placed between the Chief priests’ intention to arrest Jesus and kill him (vv1-2) and Judas Iscariot’s offer to betray Jesus to them (vv10-11). It was at this tense moment when people wanted to place Jesus on the cross that the gospel writer describes the behavior of different types of Jesus’ followers including Mary.
But what was the actual reason Mary wanted to do this good deed to Jesus? According to the custom of the Easterners, the body of a dead person needs to be bathed clean first and then have oil applied all over. After the body was rubbed with oil, the bottle would be broken and be buried together with the dead body.
What Mary did touched Jesus deeply because Jesus felt that Mary had already anointed Him with oil (John 12:3) before His burial. Mary was preparing for Jesus’ burial before He died.
What Mary did was very appropriate and timely and it pleased those who were present, except for a few who said it was a waste of precious resources.
Mary truly loved the Lord and that was why she could do such good thing. The Lord loved her and said that “wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” When we love the Lord, we should not be calculative as to how much we have spent or invested or deem it a waste of resources for the Lord. Moreover, we must grasp the opportunities to work and give thanks for the opportunities that come to our doorstep. If Mary did not grasp the opportunity to serve the Lord at that moment, she would probably lose it forever.
Because Jesus our Lord is more valuable than any precious thing in this world, the Lord is worthy for us to pay the price to truly love Him. Mary could see this clearly and that was why she offered the expensive perfume to prepare for the Lord’s burial.
What kind of precious thing we can offer to our Lord to prove that we truly love Him? Every one of us needs to answer this question as each person’s precious thing is different. We may be able to get back our precious things later, but the opportunity to serve the Lord in that particular way may never come back to us!
By Yue Fah Yong (YCKC Bulletin 7 July 2019)