Read Matthew 26:6-13
On Saturday, when Jesus came to Bethany, on his way to Jerusalem, he was invited to have dinner with Simon. Simon was a leper, who is no longer a leper because Jesus healed him completely of this vile disease. In attendance at this dinner was Jesus, his disciples, Mary, Martha and Lazarus and possibly others who aren’t mentioned. This was a pretty big dinner, a pretty special occasion.
The dinner was a lively get together, there were lots of celebration and gratitude. You have Simon the host who received his miraculous healing and then you also have Lazarus attending and well, I imagine if you were raised from the dead you’d be extremely celebratory too. Martha, can you guess, is busy in the kitchen serving, and Mary, well what is Mary doing?
Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus. Mary is doing what every single one of should be doing anytime we are in the presence of our Holy Savior. Worshiping him. Worship takes precedence over everything. Service is important and learning is important but worship trumps them all. Worshiping Christ is the single most important thing we could do at any given moment.
As Jesus sat reclining at the dinner table. The custom was to sit on pillows around a table and people would often stretch out and lean back propped up. This is how they would relax. Jesus was relaxing after this delicious meal when Mary comes over to him with her very expensive bottle of oil. The bottle of oil was roughly worth about a years’ worth of wages.
Sitting in the presence of her Lord, she became overwhelmed and she broke open the top of an alabaster bottle, dropping to her knees next to the King of Kings she begins to gently, slowly pour this fragrant oil over Jesus starting at his head. The oil begins to stream down over his hair. Mary was anointing her savior. All the guests had their own reason for attending this dinner, Mary’s was to worship her Savior.
Mary was preparing her Lord for his sacrifice. She must have remembered her Lord’s words of how he was going to die and in three days rise again. She understood this because this is what happened to her brother. Somehow she knew her Lord was going to suffer, and she wanted to give every ounce of herself in worship to him. That alabaster bottle represented every ounce of her. As she poured that bottle over Christ’s hair, she began to move down, anointing every part of his body until she got to his feet. Where she began to wash her Lord’s feet with this precious and now very holy oil and using her hair to wipe the dirt away, worshiping, loving her Lord, her savior, Jesus Christ. Giving all she had because He was about to give it all for her.
Have you ever worshiped the Lord in such a way that you lose all sense of restraint? Have you ever poured out every ounce of yourself in worship to Christ? Giving so much of yourself, yet still wanting to give more. That is what Mary did here. She honored the one who was going to die, the one who was going to carry her sins.
One of the reasons we don’t worship like this, at least not publicly, is because of the possibility of other people having the same reaction that the disciples had while they watched Mary worship so recklessly. The disciples saw what she was doing, and they became indignant.
Now indignant is a pretty nasty word. They weren’t just concerned or confused. They were indignant, it means feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment. They thought that what Mary was doing was unfair. Unfair for whom?
They were indignant, they were angry and annoyed towards Mary. They made statements like, “Why is she wasting this?” “Do you know how many people could use this money?”
Jesus heard them badgering Mary and he told them to “leave her alone”, “why are you bothering this woman?” According to John 12 Judas was the one who spoke up with the suggestion that she should have sold the perfume and made a profit from it. A years’ worth of wages would have helped a lot of poor people. Of course, Judas was the keeper of the money bag and he also helped himself to whatever he felt like taking out of it. So, this would have been a huge benefit to his sticky fingers.
Jesus didn’t fall for it though. He reminded them that Mary poured that oil over him as a preparation for his burial. In just a few days the oil that Mary poured over Jesus would still be lingering all through his hair. We know that spikenard has a calming effect. It is used to help with anxiety and stress among many other benefits. It was one of the oils used for burial and most every Jew at that time would have had a bottle for the event of their death it would be used on them.
Over the next few days the calming effects of this oil will be greatly appreciated as Jesus headed toward the cross. Perhaps the heady fragrance of this oil will offer him some comfort. Jesus validates Mary by saying, “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial”. Mary could not prevent Jesus’ death, nobody could. So instead she poured out her love. She couldn’t stop the pain, but she could offer some comfort.
“Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her”. Jesus has memorialized Mary’s act of worship. The world will forever know about her love and worship of the Lord, her kindness to meet his needs even though she would receive negative feedback from those who just didn’t understand.