Then 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
In John 12, Jesus is honored at a dinner hosted by Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The dinner was presumably a way of thanking Jesus for what He had done for them. In the course of the dinner, Mary does something extravagant. She takes a pint of perfume, pours it entirely on Jesus’ feet, and then cleans His feet with her hair. John 12:3 says that as a result, “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” This display is reminiscent of the fellowship offerings that ancient Israelites would present to God as a way to thank Him for what He had done for them. Those offerings also happened in the context of a meal. The best parts of an animal were burnt up completely for God, just as Mary completely poured the bottle of perfume on Jesus. Also, these offerings produced a fragrance which pleased God like the fragrance of Mary’s perfume (Leviticus 3, 7:11-15). In fact, the word translated in John as “fragrance” is the same word used in the Greek Old Testament to refer to the fragrance of these offerings.
But Mary’s offering goes well beyond what people would typically offer in a fellowship offering. The perfume she pours out is worth 300 denarii, an entire year’s income for the typical day laborer. Also, her act not only involves a monetary sacrifice, it involves a self-humbling sacrifice. In that culture, the washing of feet was considered a task reserved for lowly household servants, not dinner hosts like Mary. Mary does not care. She humbles herself to thank and honor Jesus.
Mary shows that she wasn’t concerned about the cost of the perfume or what other people would think. She acted entirely out of her thankfulness to Jesus. Mary’s selfless act should prompt us to reflect on what we are willing to lay down at Jesus’ feet, and whether our self-image prevents us from offering complete and humble thanksgiving to Him.
THE PLOT TO KILL JESUS
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.
JESUS ANOINTED AT BETHANY
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then 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.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.