Eyewitness: p. 187
Mathew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-11
Just before the feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread, Mary demonstrated extravagant love, within a ritual, for a guest in a home. This act was remembered for centuries. Something similar happened earlier in Jesus’ ministry when he taught on forgiveness – see Luke 7:37-48. But here, the teaching is different. It remains a question whether these are the same incidents.
More Than A Custom
The extent of what Mary* did was described best in the Gospel of John. She broke open a vial of precious oil and emptied the entire vial on Jesus’ head and feet.
- She broke the vial as a sign it all was to be used.
- The entire vial was used, only for distinguished guests.
- In the East, this was a sign of anointing a body, making it ready for the tomb.
Mary’s action provoked sharp criticism from the disciples. However, Jesus explained the symbolism of what Mary had done. He said, “I assure you, everywhere the good news is proclaimed, this woman’s deeds will be remembered and told” (Mark 14:9 Eyewitness).
The criticism was mainly over the cost of this perfume and the amount used. It is said the value of it was great enough to feed over 5,000 people or nearly an entire years wages for a working man. This vial was the most precious thing Mary had. It also shows her concern for Jesus.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus said. “Why are you criticizing the woman for doing a good thing for me?” (Mark 14:6 Eyewitness). He then explained that in this ritual of greeting she had expressed her love and tender attention. She anointed his body for burial ahead of time. Jesus then said: “I assure you, everywhere the good news is proclaimed throughout the world, this woman’s deed deed will be remembered and told” (Mark 14:9 Eyewitness).
Application: The attention and angst given to the expense of the anointing oil was misguided. Jesus explained the purpose was a public demonstration of the preparation for his death and burial. Those present didn’t understand, but would soon.
Prayer: Father, thank you for illuminating things you ordained for Jesus we hardly can grasp. What a blessing this woman did for Jesus because she loved him.
Question: How often do we misunderstand customs to honor people? Do you think you would also have misunderstood the action taken by Mary? Can you grasp the enormity of love extended through this custom in greeting in the home?
*The Daily Bible Study Series, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2, Revised Edition, William Barclay, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975, p. 329.
**The Daily Bible Study Series, The Gospel of Mark, Revised Edition, William Barclay, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975, pp. 325-327.
Photo: The Land & People Jesus Knew, J. Robert Teringo, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN, 1985, p. 212.