Mary’s Sacrifice

“Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” – John 12:3

 “She did WHAT?”

Word quickly spread throughout Bethany. People were shocked. Amazed. Dumbfounded. They couldn’t imagine what had possessed Mary to do something so ridiculous.

Six days before the Passover, a dinner was held in Jesus’ honor at the house of Lazarus, Mary’s brother. While Jesus was reclining at the table, Mary approached him, got down on her knees, and poured out a whole pint of pure nard on his feet. Then, she washed his feet with her hair.

It’s difficult for us to appreciate the amount of sacrifice portrayed here. Most people don’t have a clue about what nard is or how much it was worth in Bible times. Pure nard was a fragrant ointment imported from the mountains of India, and one pint was worth about a year’s wages. Because of its value, nard was often purchased as an investment. The nard Mary poured on Jesus’ feet may have represented her life savings. Therefore, to pour it out on someone’s feet seemed foolish. Asinine. Incomprehensible. So, why did Mary do it? Why did she “waste” such a precious gift?

First of all, Mary didn’t use the expensive perfume on just anyone. She used it to bathe the feet of her Lord. Mary loved Jesus and was deeply devoted to him. He was her King. He was the One who had raised her brother, Lazarus, from the dead. He was her Hope, her Comfort, her Joy. Therefore, it seemed right and fitting to honor him with her most valuable possession.

Second, Mary wanted to show the Lord how thankful she was for all he had done for her. Her heart longed for a meaningful expression of worship. Yes, she gave up something very costly for the Lord. Yes, it was a tremendous sacrifice. However, Mary didn’t let the value of her gift detract her from offering it. She could have kept the perfume to herself and enjoyed it for a long time, but she didn’t. Mary held nothing back. She gave it all.

Perhaps the most striking part of her story is how her gift changed her surroundings: “And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3b).” Not only was there a sweet-smelling aroma in the room, but Mary’s act of worship affected everyone else in a positive way that day. Because she gave to the Lord, others were lifted up. Encouraged. Blessed.

What was Jesus’ response to Mary’s gift? “She has done a beautiful thing to me (Matthew 26:10).” Your gifts to the Lord, no matter how big or small, are precious and pleasing to him. People around you may not understand. They may even mock you. However, don’t let that stop you from worshipping your Lord. Your sacrifices of love are always beautiful in his eyes.