Anointing at Bethany: John 12:1-8, & Mark 14:3-9 combined
Introduction: By reading 2 gospels (John & Mark), we know this is the same event, but both has different features. We look at both to see better round view of the story.
Background: The scene is Bethany, just a few miles from Jerusalem and the time is night before Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem. In a Simon’s house Jesus enjoys good food and conversations with his friends. Jesus is reclining at the table with His disciples – this is the posture when they eat supper – reclining on one side, using one hand to grab food and take it into mouth. If we’d do this today, we sure get scolded. ”Have decent manner! You are not 3 years old.”
Then, suddenly something no one expected happened, a woman (Mary) came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head.
Mary used up all of the precious perfume to anoint the head & feet of Jesus. She did not crawl under the table…remember Jesus is reclining on his side. So, it was easier to pour perfume on his head and feet. Mary then wiped his feet with her hair. Let us see what these precious treasures are.
Value of treasure:
Alabaster: is a translucent white gypsum/limestone, imported from Egypt. It was a very costly piece of decoration that only wealthy people preserved in their house. Alabaster itself is a precious stone.
Alabaster jar: is a cylindrical jar like a flask (long neck) and its top like a rosebud.
Nard: is even more precious and expensive…because imported from India. Nard is fragrant ointment extracted from Spikenard plant in the Himalayan Mountains. It is usually sealed in an Alabaster jar .
Altogether alabaster jar and nard were super expensive, and Mary broke the jar and poured it all on Jesus’ feet and head. It is worth 300 denarii – wages for 300 days of work. So, today’s money it could be $60,000. Wow!? You can buy a Luxurious car…Mercedes, Lexus, Porsche.. or name it… No wonder disciples complained a lot. If I were there, I would say the same thing, “Ah Mottainai (what a waste)”.
Mark 14:4-5 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 wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.
Mary loved Jesus with her true heart. She wanted to express her love with the best thing she had. Remember, just a few days before, her brother Lazarus was raised from death by Jesus. Yes, Jesus resurrected Lazarus. We also looked at this story a few weeks ago. Now Mary wanted to show her gratitude to Jesus for all he did to their family, raising their brother to a new life.
Pouring nard was not just a gift, but she showed her deep faith with action. It was also a selfless act of worship. For Mary it was worship but for others it was a waste. She did not bother what others said, Mary kept on loving and worshipping Lord.
For some people, our worship is a waste, for some people, Sunday worship is foolishness, but for the ones who truly love Jesus it is worship. Praising God is never a waste. The best thing any man can do is to worship God. Mary was never bothered if it was waste to somebody, but she continued pouring the perfume, continued loving Jesus and worshipping him.
So many words can be said about Mary’s good personality:
Mary has… great faith, love, worship, offering gift, sacrifice, giving all, generous, straight forward, pure, genuine heart, focus on Jesus alone, and so on.
Jesus gave her a highly valued word and honored her.
Mark 14:6-9 "Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.
The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have m e. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."
Jesus accepted Mary’s worship, love, sacrifice, giving, and anointing.
Mary does not hold back anything. It was all that she had. It was one year’s hard earned salary plus the cost of the jar. Probably it was a family treasure. There was no reluctance on the part of Mary to give it to Jesus.
What Mary did this day teaches us how we can serve our Lord Jesus. Are you not saying “Mottainai” wasting, money, time, labor, work, for the Lord?
•Do you love Lord like Mary did?
•Do you sacrificially give yourself to the lord?
•Do you worship Lord forgetting your own self?
•Do you serve the Lord like Mary did?
•Do you hold back anything today from God?
Now let us look at about brokenness.
Mary broke the jar and poured the perfume over Jesus. Once broken the alabaster jar cannot be reused. The outer vessel was broken and the inner fragrance came out. Brokenness brings the fragrance of Christ in us. Unless our outer self (flesh) is broken, our spiritual self (fragrance) cannot appear.
The jar had a long, slender neck that was designed to be broken. It was broken because there was no other way to get the NARD out of the jar. Brokenness is the only way the fragrance of Christ will come out of our lives to touch the world.
We resist brokenness because it hurts us, but it is the path to holiness and being used by God.
I read of a pastor who tells of being asked to preach in a large church whose services are broadcast on television. (You might know this church on TV.) On the way from the airport, this guest speaker received these instructions. “People worship with us in order to feel good about themselves. Therefore, don’t mention the cross in your sermon. And don’t say things about sin, don’t tell anybody about pain and brokenness.” This church still exists… preaching only happy stories every week.
Another illustration: a lots of brokenness needed in the making of a loaf of bread:
First, the wheat harvest was cut off totally, the sheaves were broken apart to yield the grain, the grain was put on a millstone, broken and broken until becoming small powder…the flour, and the flour needed to be broken apart numerous times by kneading. Then bake it, and finally a loaf of bread is produced, but again the bread is broken in pieces to feed a family. How many times was it broken?
Brokenness is necessary in our Christian life, too. The truth is, you cannot offer anything to God that is not broken. Only the broken jar has value in sacrifice…then, Fragrance of Nard appears. When you are broken, dried and ready to be poured out, then you will be miraculously used by God.
How about you? Are you broken well enough? Today’s Scripture says;
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17
Broken heart means having a humble heart. Are you humble enough to serve others? Do you have no arrogance in you? Yourself or your EGO need to be broken completely in order to show your love in Christ- that is His fragrance. Fragrance of Christ is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:15.
For we are to God the pleasing aroma (Fragrance) of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
At last, I talk about the fragrance Jesus had. He was anointed with pure Nard, perfume with very strong sent that last many days. This following day Jesus entered into Jerusalem as a triumphant entry. But after a few days he was captured, trialed, beaten, had carry a cross to Golgotha, and there he was crucified. Fragrance remained within him; in his hair, his feet and his cloth, all the way until buried into a tomb. Fragrance of Nard went along with him. Mary had prepared his burial without knowing it.
Jesus said, “She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”
We were told what she had done to Jesus again today. Her faith, love, worship, sacrifice, giving, selfless, pure and genuine heart. Jesus also predicted her achievement, as he said.
“I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."
This is true that we hear her faithful story today, and from now on and on…