Scripture Text: John 12:1-11 Title: Appropriate Anointing
Question of the Day: When is it the appropriate time to give an extravagant gift to the Savior?
We look back in awe at the life and ministry of Jesus because we have had revealed to us His awesome presence from the beginning of creation to the culmination of events as God unveils His Son in the future as “the King of kings, and the Lord of lords”. But those who walked with Him didn’t know all that we know, and though they understood that He was the Messiah, they didn’t comprehend the full scope of His identity. There were a few in His day that at times seemed to grasp a little of the magnitude of the presence of God among men, and Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus in today’s text seemed to grasp a little of it.
Here is today’s text: “Then six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, who had been dead and whom Jesus had raised from the dead. It was there that they served Him supper, and, once again, Martha was serving, but this time Lazarus was one of those who were at the meal with Him. Then Mary went a got a large which contained a pound of spikenard—a very costly anointing ointment—and poured it over the feet of Jesus and then wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance from the perfume. Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon—the one who would betray Jesus—said, ‘Why wasn’t this expensive ointment sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor?’ Now he said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief and was the treasurer for the twelve, and he used to embezzle money from them. Then Jesus said, ‘Let her alone! She has done this because of My upcoming burial. You will always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have Me with you.’”
Here we have Mary once again doing what she does best—sitting at the feet of Jesus, but this time she is anointing His feet. She took a whole pound of ointment named spikenard. It was very costly, and she used it to anoint Jesus’ feet, and then proceeded to wipe His feet with her hair. It also says that the whole house was filled with the odor of this ointment; well, I guess! If you took a pound of any ointment and poured it out in a house, it would be breathtaking and maybe even overwhelming. The outcry of Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, is one indication as to how expensive and how pervasive the perfume filled the house. He was incensed about it, and the main reason seemed to be because of the high cost of the perfume.
It was so expensive that it would have taken 300 days’ work worth of wages to buy this expensive an ointment. This would be just about a full years wages, and if the average wage in America today was about $25,000, that would be a very expensive flask of ointment. It was probably more expensive than perfume would be because there were certain ointments that were to be used only in special occasions—like when anointing a King, or the special ointment used exclusively by the priests who served in the temple/tabernacle.
Judas’ ruse was that the money could have been better spent giving it to the poor: this indicates that some of the money that the disciples had in their treasury was given periodically to the poor. It also tells us that Judas was the treasurer for the group, and it also seems that later John and the other disciples figured it out that he used to steal from the bag that he kept for them. Also, John recorded that he was convinced that Judas really didn’t care about the poor; he just wanted to pilfer what was put in the bag. Who appointed Judas as treasurer? Jesus must have known what was happening, and chose to do nothing about it; it is only John who, in this passage, mentioned these facts about Judas. So what was Jesus’ statement directly to Judas? “Let her alone…” In other words: “Stop bugging her!” Jesus knew why Mary had done this: it is obvious that He had many times talked to many people about His upcoming death. She must have understood and accepted the fact of His upcoming death—even though He had just raised her brother back from death. It was only appropriate that Jesus be anointed, but why His feet? And why would she wipe them with her hair? This would show her deep devotion to Jesus, and would be the one way that He would be prepared for His death.
But why this extravagant gift? And why at this particular time? It has been pointed out that after Jesus’ death they hurriedly took Him down from the cross and buried Him in a nearby tomb because the Sabbath was near, and this is verified by the fact that the women came to the tomb early on the first day of the week bringing spices to complete the anointing of Jesus’ body. Not only was this the appropriate time for the anointing, but it was the only time available for Mary to do this. She deeply loved the Savior and would do anything for Him, and, since He had mentioned His upcoming death, it was the proper time. Mary completed the act of worship by wiping His feet with her hair.
“…but you won’t always have Me with you,” He said. What grace, what humility the Master showed. He knew from Scripture who He was and accepted it even though He lived in a human body like us. The greatest thing about Him up to this time was that He was the Son of God and our Creator, but now He was to become our Savior and change things for lost mankind forever. Mary seemed to sense that a major change in all of history was about to take place, and she wanted to anoint His feet for the most special occasion of His life—His death, resurrection, and ascension. How and when is it appropriate for us to give an extravagant gift to the Savior? How about now?
Prayer: Lord, we just sit at Your feet in worship and service. The greatest part of this life is being Your child and taking the first steps in service to You as part of Your body. Teach us to be like Mary and Martha where Martha prepared the meal and made the event possible, and Mary completed the best thing she could possibly do—just sit at Your feet and offer an extravagant gift. You are worth of any and all gifts that we could offer, so we just give You our all in both worship and service. What a privilege! Amen!