As we walk through Holy Week, consider the action of this woman who loved extravagently ...
By Elisa Morgan
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
Mary of Bethany did what she could. She gave from the context of who God had made her to be - and from what her relationship with him was making her. She sat at Jesus' feet, opening her soul to his teaching, his wisdom, and his love. Because she took the time to take him in, she "got" him. Over the days and months, and perhaps, years of their relationship, his investment combined with the core of her being to yield a rich essence of character, from which she later anointed him in a moment of his own great need. Spiritual intimacy had been formed and in return, it formed her.
Because she had received love, she gave it. She understood what, so far, the disciples had missed. In this act of worship, she lived loved.
Mary approached Jesus with her gift of perfume and poured it out with confidence, her gesture expressing her love for him and preparing his body for burial before his death, the broken flask foreshadowing the shards customarily left in the tomb after the body's anointing for burial.
Her gift touched Jesus in the moment, the fragrant oil running off his hair, down his temples and onto his neck and his chest, comforting him with love when it mattered most to him.
I wonder whether later, Mary's gift gave again: as Jesus prayed in a midnight garden setting, tortured by thoughts of what lay ahead and privately battling with his destiny. As he stood before the high priest, and then Pilate, then Herod, and then back before Pilate, enduring their ridicule and accusations. As the thorny crown was smashed down on his head. As he bent his back under the lashes of the whips. As he struggled to carry a heavy cross through the streets of Jerusalem and up a dusty hill. As he was laid out on that cross and fixed to it by heavy iron nails through his hands and feet. And as he hung in crucifixion.
As his head fell to his chest, dipping under the weight of his suffering, did any fragrance still liner, mingling with the stench of blood, and bring back, however briefly, that tender moment?
Jesus gave Mary of Bethany access to himself. Because she had fully received all he'd held out to her in his presence and his teaching and his very being, she had been forever changed. She acted from the reality of the relationship she shared with him.
To Jesus, Mary gave a gift that kept on giving. She did what she could. She let him love her.
Excerpt from She Did What She Could, Elisa Morgan (Tyndale).
Elisa Morgan is an author and speaker; she is the cohost of Discover the Word. Her books include She Did What She Could, Hello, Beauty Full, and The Beauty of Broken. Connect with Elisa on Facebook, @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and elisamorganauthor on Instagram.