“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
When Mary breaks open her alabaster jar of perfume, John is the only gospel writer who directs our attention not to the jar being broken beyond repair (Mark does that for us) but to the fragrance that fills every corner of the room. No one in the room was quite sure why Mary had given such a costly gift, but things became clearer as Jesus explained in verse 7 that she has anointed him for his burial. Is it any wonder that the scent is what stuck with John? It was both the fragrance of death and the fragrance of life. An aroma that would forever be associated in his mind with how God “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14) with the express purpose of being our Messiah. He would live and die in our place to atone for our sin, so that in the end God can end evil and suffering without ending us.
Jesus’ next line can be confusing for us, but Richard Philips summarizes it well: “Jesus was not speaking callously about the poor; all through the Gospels, his concern for mercy is obvious. Rather, he argues that our concern for the problems of this world should not displace our worship of the Savior from heaven.” Quite right. Worshipping Christ has always led Christians to rightly involve themselves in caring for the vulnerable in society. Christians provided care for the sick and dying during plagues when others fled, founded the first orphanages and hospitals, and provided the ethical framework for how we think about modern human rights.
What John seems to be saying is here, though, is that because Jesus was about to die on the cross, the very best use of the oil was the anointing of his body. The fragrance of which would cling to Jesus throughout his arrest, his unjust trial, his cruel murder, and his burial in the tomb.
The Big Question:
Mary’s devotion to Jesus was a fragrant representation of what had occurred in her own heart. Consider how you will break the bottle of your own heart this week to pour out in devotion to him? How is your life bearing the fragrance of his salvation, spreading gospel-mercy wherever you go?
– Pray for His love to overflow in and through you (and His church) all across the globe.
– Tell the Lord You love Him. Tell Him all the things you love about Him. Mediate on some of His names.
– Reach out to the person who led you to Jesus, and encourage them. Reach out to someone you know who doesn’t know the Lord yet, connect with them, and when they ask how you are doing, you can share where your Hope is coming from.
– Pray for Your neighbors, pray for your community – ask the Lord to grant perseverance, strength, eternal endurance….
God, I praise You as the Lamb of God, Man of Sorrows, Servant of All, Fragrant Offering, Son of God, Savior of the World, Resurrection and Life. You gave Yourself up for me, as an offering and perfect sacrifice to God. You paid an infinite price because I have infinite value! It cost You everything, and You did it so that I could be with You for all of eternity. Lord, thank You for this reminder. I ask that my life would be a sweet-smelling aroma to You. I offer to You, every part of myself, as an instrument of righteousness. I am Your workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which You prepared in advance for me to do. I am Yours oh Lord. Let my life be on display for You Jesus, for all to. I ask that you begin renewing me through my heart and mind, where only You and I see. Let there be an overflow of Your divine love from my heart to others. I pray that there would be extravagant worship from the inside and out. Help me to worship You in Spirit and in Truth. You are worth it all. In the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.