By Kristin Miller
A Costly Love
Main Verse: While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. 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. “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 me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” – Mark 14:3-9 (NIV)
When Mary of Bethany broke her alabaster jar and anointed the head and feet of Jesus with her costly perfume, the disciples were indignant at her waste. Such valuable commodities were now lost, they groaned. These treasures should have been sold and the money given to the poor, they grumbled. Over a year’s wages would have gone a long way, they complained.
And they rebuked her. They rebuked her harshly for an act of love they deemed too costly. Waste! they cried.
Jesus in turn rebuked His disciples and commended Mary. He will always commend love, especially, I think, when it is costly.
Like the day she sat at Jesus’ feet, drinking in His every word, it seems that Mary had again chosen what was better (Luke 10:38-42). In her Master’s estimation, just as she had chosen the best use of her time, she had now chosen the best use of her treasures.
In total approval of her act that night, Mark 14:9 records that Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the whole world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Mary’s story is well known and has been held in high regard among believers for centuries. But Jesus said wherever the gospel is preached what she did will also be told. This gave me pause as I read it this week as I don’t recall hearing the anointing at Bethany worked in to any evangelistic messages I’ve heard of late. Or, I should say, worked into any evangelistic messages I’ve heard. Ever.
As I pondered these things, I wondered if I was thinking too literally. In other words, it’s not that the actual story of Mary’s anointing of Jesus would be told with the preaching of the gospel, but that the anointing at Bethany is the gospel. Or, that is, a picture of the gospel. Consider: Mary’s alabaster jar was broken and its precious contents poured out. So too Jesus’ body was broken, His precious blood poured out. She did it for love. So did He.
The accusation of waste comes now into shocking clarity. No wonder He rebuked them. Well intentioned though they might have been, they had no idea what they were suggesting for they had no idea that Mary through her act that night was preaching His gospel. A gospel of great cost. A gospel of great sacrifice. A gospel of great love.
Forgetting herself, Mary broke her alabaster jar, symbolically showing that very soon the Master would do likewise. Because of His great love, Jesus’ death was the breaking of an alabaster box for us. Shouldn’t our lives be the same for Him?
Thank you, Mary, for not only showing us the best use of our time and the best use of our treasures, but for forgetting yourself and showing us the gospel.