1 It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a cunning way to arrest Jesus and kill Him. 2 “Not during the festival,” they said, “so that there won’t be a riot among the people.”
3 While He was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on His head. 4 But some were expressing indignation to one another: “Why has this perfume been wasted? 5 For this perfume might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor. And they began to scold her.
6 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me. 7 You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have Me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”Mark 14:1-9 (CSB)
It is Tuesday. Jesus is two days from His arrest, three days from His body being beaten and nailed to a cross, and five days from returning the borrowed tomb. And where do we find Jesus? He is reclining at the dinner table with friends, having His body prepared for burial, while His enemies dream up a CIA-style plan to take His life. Did you catch the irony? Jesus’ enemies are dreaming up a plan to take His life, but His body is already being prepared for burial!
Let us take a look at these two seemingly-contradictory scenes. Mark begins by laying out how secretive the chief priests and scribes were being in concocting a plan to arrest and kill Jesus (vv. 1-2). Picture your favorite spy movie: plans being drawn up, people training and being put in place, equipment being ordered, and every detail planned to a “T”. The perfect plan is put in place and…BOOM! The trap is laid, and the person gets caught. Of course, several things go wrong in the mean-time with the main character nearly being killed three or four times.
The difference here is that the main character is the One being sought and is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. The chief priests and the scribes know this because they do not want to put their plan in action during the festival “so that there won’t be a riot among the people” (v. 2). Very cunning indeed….
Now that we know what is going on behind the scenes, let us see what was happening in the foreground. Jesus is at Simon the leper’s house and is enjoying a meal among friends. Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Simon, and His disciples are there (John 12:1-3). They are reclining at the table when, all of a sudden, Mary pulls out a vial of pure nard, breaks it open, and pours it on Jesus’ head and feet (v. 3). She begins to wipe His feet with her hair (John 12:3).
The perfume she anoints Jesus with would have cost her a year’s worth of wages. It was expensive, pure, and left a wonderful fragrance all throughout the house. Everything about this scene exclaims Mary’s humility, devotion, and worship in the presence of the King of kings. Each time we encounter Mary in the Scriptures, we find her at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38–42; John 11:31–32; 12:1–8). What a great example Mary leaves for believers! Unfortunately, her example did not rub off on everybody.
In verse 4, we find some of the people “indignant” with Mary’s “wasted” charity. John tells us the main instigator is Judas (John 12:4), and John 12:6 tells us that Judas “didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.” Much like us, Judas’s temptation did not start with betraying the Son of God but with little compromises and sins. For him, it started with taking a little money off the top here and there. His love of money began to grow to the point he was upset when he lost a chance to steal more (vv. 4-5). Eventually, his love of money would lead him to betray the Son of God (Mark 14:10).
We know that “the love of money is A root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10). I add emphasis to the word “a” because there are several roots of evil. Galatians 5:19-21 give us a glimpse of these, saying that “the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar.” Each of us are affected by one or more of them.
Yes, we are all affected by one or more of the works of the flesh, but look at how Jesus brings these seemingly, contradictory scenes together. He says, “Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her…? …[y]ou always have the poor with you…you do not always have Me” (vv. 6-7). In a few simple words, Jesus rebukes the evil, praises Mary’s worship of Him, and puts the entire situation into the correct perspective! He explains that Mary has her priorities straight – the poor will always be here to be ministered to, but Jesus is about to fulfill His mission and ascend back to the Father.
You see, Jesus had but one mission when coming to earth, and that was to save us from our sins. In verse 8, Jesus says, “she has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial.” Although the chief priests and scribes are plotting ways to kill Him, and others arguing over a lost opportunity to steal, Jesus is singularly focused on His upcoming death, burial, and resurrection.
The completion of Jesus’s mission on earth is but a couple of days away, but YOU need to understand that YOU – saving your soul – is His mission!
We are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and have all earned death because of that sin, but “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). All you have to do is call on His Name today to be saved: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Whether you are a chief priest, a scribe, or a Judas, you WILL BE SAVED and enjoy Him forever if only you will repent of your sin and believe in Him! “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13)!
If you are a Mary, remain at the feet of Jesus, rest in Him, and enjoy Him forever!