“Leave her alone”, Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save the perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” John 12: 7 – 8
Father’s Day is coming soon, and it’s time to be thinking of the gifts we want to give those men in our lives who mean so much to us. A tie? Golf clubs? A book? What would be worthy of the loving person he is!
We all can relate with trying to find the perfect gift – one that shows our thoughtfulness, love, and appreciation to the person who is receiving it. We want it to be something really special and sometimes even unique. We put a lot of thought and effort into coming up with the perfect choice, and often it seems to fall short of our expectations and the love and appreciation we had hoped to convey.
I have always loved the story of Mary anointing Jesus with the precious nard or oil that she had in her possession. I have often wondered if she too had put much thought into what she could give this beloved friend who had become so dear to her. But He was more than just a friend. She had learned to place her devotion, faith, and trust in Him as the Messiah, the Son of God. After all, she had seen Him raise her brother, Lazarus, from the dead!
What love, gratitude, and awe she must have had for Him. What gift could possibly be worthy of the Son of God? It had to be the most precious, expensive, unique, important possession she owned and one with the most significance and value to Him.
This third event in which Mary, Martha, and Lazarus appeared in the Gospels with Jesus took place a week before his death. They, like His disciples and followers, realized that Jesus was in grave danger. He has tried to prepare them for what lay ahead, but it seems almost impossible that they could have completely understood what was about to occur and that He would be leaving them.
Their home in Bethany outside of Jerusalem seemed to be a safe place, a refuge of sorts for Him. These friends prepared a meal for Him and those accompanying Him. It was the custom of the day when the guests arrived before eating that the host would give them a refreshing foot bath after they had walked on the dusty roads.
Mary took a container of oil of nard (oil extracted from a balsam tree), broke it, and anointed Jesus’s feet with the expensive perfume. Then she wiped His feet tenderly with her hair. Judas and others objected to the obvious waste of such a valuable commodity, a year’s worth of salary.
Whether the nard was an investment for her family, or a perfume she was keeping for her own wedding, it was a remarkably unselfish and extravagant gift to give. She offered it as a comfort and a reassurance to Jesus for what was to come. Whether Mary fully understood what was about to happen, we cannot know, but we do know that she believed Him to be the Messiah, and she lovingly ministered to Him with the anointing oil.
In this verse from John, Jesus defended and appreciated Mary’s extraordianary gesture of love. He knew what was to come and that she was giving Him the most precious gift she owned and in the most loving way – as she tenderly wiped His feet with her hair. He accepted her most humble offering as an anointment prior to His death, burial, and resurrection, and He reminded those present that His time was near for doing what God had sent Him to do.
Mary’s gift is a reminder that we too should always give Jesus our best, but even more, this story should remind us of His love for us. What could we possibly give Him in return that is worthy of such a gift of His saving grace and the promise of eternal life?
We can give Him what He most desires of us – that we give Him our lives and our hearts in full devotion, trust, and love to Him. We can give Him our obedience, respect, honor, gratitude, love and service to others, kindness, our help to the needy and poor, and our most heartfelt worship and praise. For no one deserves it more! He is truly worthy!
Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the greatest and most loving gift known to mankind – the sacrifice of your life on the cross to ensure our salvation and the promise of eternal life. May we give our lives and loving service to you in return for your magnificent grace. May we honor, glorify, and worship your most holy name always. Amen