While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you,but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Matthew 26:6-13
I love this woman! The Book of John identifies her as Mary of Bethany and just about every time we see her, she’s at Jesus’ feet. The first time she’s mentioned, in Luke 10:38-42, her sister Martha is fuming because Mary is just sitting there listening to Jesus, while Martha does all the work fixing food in the kitchen! Jesus’ response is beautiful: “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” This is the same man after all who fed 5,000 people with just a handful of fish and rolls, so if He was really hungry He probably could’ve figured something out!
The next time we see Mary, her brother Lazarus has died. When she hears that Jesus is calling for her, she comes and falls at His feet weeping. Jesus sees her distress, is moved to tears, and then goes and raises her brother back to life. Pretty great relationship if you ask me!
The last time we see Mary, she crashes a dinner party where Lazarus and the disciples are hanging out with Jesus. Despite the inherent social awkwardness of a woman breaking up the man party, Mary approaches Jesus, presents a flask of very expensive perfume (probably an equivalent value to about 10 of my suburbans), breaks open the container and pours it on Jesus’ head and feet in one of the most extravagant expressions of love anyone there had ever seen. Sadly, but not surprisingly, people got offended.
“But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying “why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” Matthew 26:8-9
Since when is worship ever a waste?
So often when we tell this story, we emphasize the sacrifice of the expensive perfume. That’s legit. I don’t disagree, but what stands out to me, and what calls to my heart, is the depth at which Mary was able to minister personally to Jesus. He knew He was going to die. He’d actually been telling people about it for quite awhile, but no one seemed to be paying any attention. As He entered Jerusalem, He knew what He was about to face, but only one woman, Mary, was so in touch with His heart that she gave all she had to prepare Him. I don’t know if she fully understood what was about to happen, but somehow Mary got a revelation that Jesus needed to be anointed. It took bravery on her part and determination, but this prophetic act of love ministered to Him so deeply, that He forever connected her story to His own.
“Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Matthew 26:13
Mary wasn’t an idiot. She knew the social norms of the day, what was expected and what was likely to be criticized, but none of that matters to a person in love. Her actions may have brought her personal criticism, but the privilege of ministering to Jesus’ heart made every other opinion pale in comparison.
I don’t exactly have any expensive perfume, and I seriously doubt the oil from my suburban would bless anyone if I poured it on their head! What I do have though is what Mary had been developing with Jesus all along: a listening and obedient heart. Mary’s sacrifice didn’t come from a single moment of obedience, but a lifestyle of waiting on the Lord. Her heart to know Him and the priority she had for His Presence was the true offering that moved His heart. Oh how I long to have this kind of impact on my Jesus! To minister to The Minister is the greatest privilege of all! And the truth is, I can. We all can! The question is are we willing to sit at His feet and listen? Not just for a moment, but as a lifestyle?
I want to be like Mary. I want to be willing to press into Jesus, no matter the cost. Not just for my own good, but to minister to Him. I want to make His presence my highest priority. Out of that, I know I can touch His heart, and so can you.