“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wage and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly. ‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me […] Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9
One of the most radical, beautiful, and challenging things about Jesus is how much He loved and stood up for people who the religious leaders of the day deemed bad, unacceptable, and unworthy of encountering God.
Just before He is about to be betrayed and crucified, Jesus’s friend Mary Magdalene comes to anoint him with oil. John’s version says that she also poured the oil out on His feet and wiped His feet with her hair (12:3). This kind of perfume in Jesus’s day was incredibly valuable and costly, worth three hundred denarii, or an entire year’s earnings.
But why do it? Why spend so much for what Jesus’s own friends deemed a waste? What was Mary Magdalene doing?
She was giving what she had to the One who would give everything for her.
Mary Magdalene had been healed and redeemed by Jesus. Formerly a prostitute and possessed by demons, she had likely lived an incredibly tumultuous and terrifying existence until she met Jesus. He set her free, gave her a new identity, and welcomed her into His family.
While we might not have a similar experience to Mary Magdalene, we do all know what it feels like to be stuck in situations that we think should keep us far from God. Sin has wrecked each of our lives in its own way, yet Jesus doesn’t leave us there. He came and died so that we could be redeemed and restored. This should make us weep with gratitude!
And like Mary, it should make our hearts long to give Jesus the best that we have. It might look foolish to the world, yet through this story, Jesus reminds us that whatever we have, be it little or much, is enough when it’s given to Him with a heart of worship.
Ellie Holcomb says it beautifully in her devotional Fighting Words: “[Jesus] understands our situation. He knows what we are capable of and what we aren’t. And whatever it is that we can give Him, even when we don’t get it all the way right, He considers it precious. He knows we’ve done what we can, He doesn’t expect us to be or do more than that, and He defends us against any voice that would say otherwise.”
What can you give Jesus today to thank Him for the way He has rescued and redeemed you? Take the next few minutes to pray and thank God for His goodness and compassion towards you.