"Mary Anoints Jesus" - Jeremy Taylor
Image from Pitts Theology Library.
TO CHEW ON: "But Jesus said, Let her alone. It was that she might keep it for the time of My preparation for burial—She has kept it that she might have it for the time of My embalming." John 12:7 (Amplified)
It's interesting to me that Mary even had in her possession this "very expensive" jar of spikenard. [Spikenard was the "fragrant essential oil obtained from Nardo-stachys jatamansi—a perennial related to valerian but having more pleasantly scented roots. It is a native to North India where it is still used as a perfume for the hair. In biblical times spikenard was imported in sealed alabaster boxes which were opened only on special occasions" - New Bible Dictionary, p. 1210.]
Jesus explained that she had planned to open it after His death and use it in the preparation of His body. So why did she open it early?
Perhaps she wanted Jesus to know she had heard and believed what He'd been saying about dying. (She may have been one of the women who traveled with Him, taking care of His needs [Mark 15:11] and thus heard Him speak on many occasions.)
Or perhaps it was another way of thanking Jesus for raising her brother Lazarus from the dead.
Or maybe she just wanted to show Jesus how much she loved Him while He was still alive.
Her gift at that dinner gathering was impossible to ignore because its fragrance filled the house. It was socially gauche in its extravagance. It seems people didn't often act out their love in such graphic ways, especially women.
Jesus wasn't embarrassed. He gently and graciously welcomed her gift. His defense of her stands in stark contrast to the disapproval and criticism of Judas and the others.
Mary's lovely action speaks to us on two levels.
1. She is a good example of someone who expressed her gratitude and love before it was too late and the object of her love was dead. We can do that with each other, not saving up our loving words and actions for the funeral tea but saying and giving while our loved ones are still with us.
2. Mary's great love needed extravagant expression. Is our love for Him so deep it would move us to do something so lavishly crazy? Perhaps we too should be less inhibited in expressing that love. Like then, our demonstrativeness may prompt criticism. But Jesus, who knows our hearts, will not only understand but welcome and be blessed by the honest outpouring of your heart's devotion and mine.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to have a Mary-love for You that gives the best and costliest now. Amen.
MORE: Sunday of the Passion - Palm Sunday
Today the church celebrates Palm Sunday—the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, to the adulation of the crowd. The liturgy for today begins with this Collect:
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Phillips, Craig and Dean have written the beautiful "Pour My Love On You" that captures the spirit of Mary's act and ignites a similar response in our own hearts.
The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.