In Mark 14, John Mark tells us the story of when Jesus visited Simon’s (a man He had healed of leprosy) home in Bethany. While He was there, His friend Mary (Lazarus’ sister) came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from nard and poured it over Jesus’ head. Why would Mary do such a thing?
In Exodus 30, the Lord says that everything set apart for God was to be anointed. In that instance, this meant the tabernacle, the ark, the table and its instruments, the lampstand and utensils, the incense altar and main altar, and the washbasin. Aaron, the high priest, and his sons (also priests) were also to be anointed. The result was a holy place with holy furnishings, holy items of worship, and holy ministers set apart to be used by God for a special purpose.
Now, Jesus was certainly being used by God for a special purpose. In doing this, Mary is not only recognizing that God is using Jesus for divine purposes, she is declaring Him to be the Messiah. The word “Messiah” comes from the Hebrew, mashiach, and means “anointed one.”
“Some of those” at the dinner were indignant and scolded Mary. John later tells us this was the treasurer Judas Iscariot, who says, “Why waste such expensive perfume? It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” (Mark 14:4-5) Not that Judas really cared. John reveals, “…he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself” (John 12:6).
This afternoon, I am not focusing on Judas’ dishonesty (though he certainly was dishonest) or Mary’s faith (though she was certainly faithful). I want to point out the essence of nard. You see, anointing was often done using olive oil. In fact, God tells the prophet Samuel to “…fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king” (1 Samuel 16:1) Samuel will go on to anoint the youngest son, David, as the next king of Israel. Olive oil is certainly less valuable than essence of nard, which was exorbitantly expensive. In today’s money, the amount of perfume that Mary poured over Jesus’ head would be worth $55,000! What?? Why would Mary do such a thing? Does even the dishonest treasurer, Judas, have a point here? Hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.
I believe, Mary offered her essence of nard, because that was the most valuable thing she had to give. That is what I am focusing on today. Let’s face it. The truth is all of us have too much. I’ll bet you have a junk drawer filled with stuff at your home. As comedian George Carlin once said, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” Hey, a yard sale is an admission that we have too much stuff. Of all the abundance of stuff, what should we give to the Lord? The junk in the drawer or the stuff we take out only on holidays? I don’t really have to answer that, right?
Surely, most of us are not able to offer $55,000, but that does not mean we cannot give our best to God. We can give Him the best of our love, our time, our attention, our service, our obedience, and, yes, our resources. Mary gave Jesus her best. How about you?
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