The Anointing at Bethany
Mark 14:3-9
And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 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.”

I remember a beautiful little blue glass perfume bottle that my mother kept tucked away in the corner of her top drawer, only to be used on special occasions when she dressed up, putting on her pearl necklace and pretty high heels. I loved the tall, elegantly carved bottle, and its warm, dusky scent is indelibly linked to celebrations in my mind. Each time I read of this anointing of Jesus I can’t help but visualize that same fragile, deep blue bottle. I see it broken, as the intense, sweet aroma overwhelms me.

Can you imagine owning a bottle of perfume worth a year’s wages? Around here the average per capita income is about $30,000. Let’s say that you have a little blue bottle like the one I remember, worth $30,000 or so. You’d have to save your money for years to purchase such a thing. You’d tuck it away in a vault or your safe-deposit box. Okay, now imagine taking the unopened bottle, breaking the slender neck and pouring it out—all of it—as worship to God. Wow! That would be really extravagant!

Admit it. Somewhere in the back of your mind you’re thinking how wasteful that would be. Think of all the things you could do with all the money you make in a year, good things benefiting others. And even if you didn’t need it to live on, you’d benefit from that money, wouldn’t you? Let’s say you gave it anonymously to a wonderful charitable organization assisting widows and orphans. If you’re like me, you’d also glory in the idea that you saved all that money and gave it away.

But as a result, more than once you’d think about the widows and orphans you gave it to, I bet. Am I implying this would be bad? Not completely. I’m only pointing out that if you poured your perfume out before the Lord it’s possible you would think of that as wasteful—but would it be? Just as you would repeatedly think of the widows and orphans, wouldn’t you think of the One who received your gift? Remember, He’s the Maker of all, even the heady scent of that perfume. To give it to Him is to return it to the One who gave it to you. How is that wasteful?

Jesus says that this tale of the woman’s gift to Him will be told all over the world as a memorial to her. He wants us to appreciate her gift, to emulate her heart. It was out of worship to the living God that she gave. And she gave it all to Him. Even the pretty little blue bottle was broken, no longer able to hold perfume—though I’m sure the scent lingered freely on it for years.

I wonder how many times she recalled that day, how often her heart swelled with the memory of the expensive gift, the sweet aroma of worship, that she gave Him out of her great love. Surely that extravagant worship was worth the price.

(c) 2008 D. Secor


  1. I think the part I love most about Mary's story is the possibility that he remembered the scent of that anointing when he hung on the cross, and then when he appears to her in the garden and calls to her from the heart: 'Mary, Mary.' I hope one day he calls me that way too.

  2. What I like about Mary, is that she gave Jesus her ALL. Without any reservation. But, then aren't we all called to do no less? Abraham was called upon to do the same. To give his most treasured possession...his son. But, then, that's what God did for us, too. Gave His all.
    After resurrection, in the garden, Jesus asks her..."Who are you looking for?" John 20:15.
    He asks the same of us. & because Mary was looking for HIM, she found HIM. Lord, may I give YOU nothing but the BEST.

  3. Elena, I agree. Also think about the fact that this woman (whether she was the Mary described in John 12:1-8) may have had the scent of the oil on her during that time that Jesus was tried, crucified and buried. It says so clearly in this text that it was for His burial, as a reminder to them all that He was on His way to the cross. We should all keep the cross in mind! And how sweet to recall Mary's comfort when she discovered the LIVING Jesus in the garden as He called her name... :)

    Natalia, thank you for your additions. This woman give up all her savings, all her possible security for the future, to worship Jesus! What future could be a better than to be surrendered to Him completely, in all things?

    To that end, I've also given Him a sacrifice of the book I've written. It was meant to have been my 'life savings', to care for me in old age, but it seems He wanted me to give it away, not sell it and reap the benefits as the world would encourage me to do, even if it could have apparently been sold at a profit and perhaps then used to 'greater benefit' to the kingdom. It took me two years to get my heart in line and be truly secure and ready to do it, but it's been an amazing blessing to me!

    He is worthy of our sacrifice. Thus I say, LORD, I give You my ALL. Amen!


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