An Extravagant Expression

Written by: Jody Mugford

“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3

Lately, I can’t seem to get this image out of my mind – Mary anointing the feet of Jesus.  There are so many lessons we can learn from the life of Mary but the lesson that is burning on my heart this week is of her love for Jesus.

This particular scene happens 6 days before the Passover, when Jesus will be crucified.  He is having a meal with friends including Lazarus (whom he had raised from the dead), Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, and His disciples.  Jesus is relaxing with his loved ones at dinner, Martha is serving, and here we see Mary pouring expensive oil (worth a year’s wages, by the way) all over His feet.  She then proceeds to wipe Jesus’ feet with her hair!

I can only imagine that, at this point, all conversation has stopped and you could hear a pin drop.  There are a few reactions going on in the room now, one being a comment made by Judas about how wasteful Mary is being.  In Jewish culture at the time, it was customary to give someone water with maybe a drop of perfume in it for them to wash their feet, but Mary used a whole pound of expensive oil!  “Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”, he questions.  We know from scripture that Judas was possessive of the money set aside to help the poor because he would steal from it but, nonetheless, he was probably echoing the thoughts of some others at the table.  There were likely also those in the room that were uncomfortable with Mary’s lavish expression.  A Jewish woman would not usually be seen with her head uncovered and her hair let loose but here Mary has abandoned tradition, let her hair down, and been brave enough to express her devotion to Jesus, despite what others may think.  In verse 7 & 8, you’ll read that Jesus defends her against the criticism of others, saying that she is preparing Him for burial.  Whether Mary realized that was what she was doing, we don’t know, but we do know that she receives His acceptance and approval of her extravagant, even somewhat scandalous, expression of love and devotion.

This challenges me so much.  I am such a doer and can be overly practical sometimes.  I would probably think to pour costly perfume on Jesus’ feet out of love but then stop myself.  What would people think?  Should I use up all this supply?  Maybe there’s a less daring, more practical way to show Jesus my love?

There is nothing wrong with being conservative and using our resources wisely.  There is nothing wrong being aware of the type of example we set and how our behaviour impacts those around us.  I would challenge us all, though, (myself included) that if we are redirecting our expression of love for Jesus into more practical ways out of fear, embarrassment, selfishness, or another inhibiting emotion…if we are rationalizing our way out of pouring passionate affection on Him because we feel it isn’t as valuable as other acts of ministry, it is time to reevaluate our hearts.

Mary didn’t let finances or appearances stop her from worshipping Jesus in abandon.  She had spent time listening to Him and learning from Him (Luke 10:38-42), seeing Him perform miracles, seeing Him raise her brother from the dead (John 11)!  She knew who He was.  She knew what He had done for her and her family.  She knew He was worthy of ALL her praise and adoration.  So she gave it to Him.  Simple as that.  In the best way she knew how.

Friends, our acts of service, our ministries, our commitments, they mean nothing if they are not rooted in an overflowing love for Jesus.  More than anything, He wants our affection, our surrender, our devotion.  If we spend time in His presence, learning from Him, falling in love with Him and seeing who He truly is, that love will grow.  It will become like a well that is overflowing within us.  Then we will serve Him and worship Him with all we have in adoration and love.  Oh, what a joyous place to be!!!!

“Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him.”  Philippians 3:8-9a

I love how, after Mary had poured her perfume on Jesus’ feet, the room was filled with its beautiful fragrance.  Authentic love for Jesus is contagious, friends.  It spreads like a sweet perfume.  I pray that our love and our worship, when poured on Jesus, fills our homes, our communities, our churches and our lives with a beautiful fragrance, pleasing unto the Lord.

Love and blessings,

Jody