Theme: The most pivotal event in history
This weeks lessons teach that getting to know Jesus is the most important thing you’ll ever do.
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
It was not merely that Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and learned from him, however. That points to what Jesus gave her, but it is only half of what was going on. Mary also gave herself to Jesus, which is what the pouring out of her expensive perfume means. Mark tells us that she broke her jar to do it (Mark 14:3). So it wasn’t a case of her merely dipping into it a little bit and placing a little bit on Jesus, or even carefully pouring out a little bit as one might be expected to dispense perfume. On the contrary, she gave it all, not holding back even a little bit.
Many people give themselves to Jesus the other way, offering him little bits of time here, a little bit of money there, or a little bit of devotion at some appropriate season of the year. They dip and sprinkle and are quite pleased with themselves. But that is because they have never looked deep in Jesus’ eyes and learned really to know him, as Mary had.
I think I can understand exactly what had happened. Mary had sat at Jesus’ feet not only to learn from him but also to get to know him. She had looked into his eyes and had seen his sorrow as he thought forward to the cross. She identified with him in his sorrow. She said to herself, “What can I do to show Jesus that I love him and that I understand what he is doing for us?” She thought of her ointment, the most precious possession she had. She said, “I’ll give him that.” She gave it, and Jesus understood at once, as he always does. So when the disciples objected to the apparent waste, Jesus told them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial” (vv. 10-12).
Do not think if you give Jesus your most precious possession that he will overlook it or miss knowing why you have given it. He cherishes the gifts of every yielded heart. Your gift will be different from Mary’s. It may be your free time or a bank account or even your children. Would you give your children to the Lord’s service, if Jesus should call them? Would you give yourself, if he should call? Would you give of your wealth to send others? Nothing given out of love will ever be overlooked by Jesus.
It is an interesting twist to this story that Mary was anointing Jesus as a memorial for him, in view of his death and burial. But what she did actually became a memorial for her. Jesus’ last words declare with solemn emphasis, “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (v. 13). And so it has been. We are telling it in memory of her right now.
Think how many great deeds of the many great kings, generals, tycoons, and other brilliant men of this world have been forgotten, Men try to erect great monuments to themselves, but what they have done is hardly remembered by succeeding generations. They are like Ozymandias, about whom Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that brilliant poem. A traveler sees an immense but shattered statue in the desert. Nothing is left but the inscription:
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair”
Nothing remained. But Marys selfless, loving, extravagant act lives on as a memorial to her and a grand witness to the greatness of her Lord.
Do you want to be remembered? Then do as Mary did. Leave off building monuments; build into the lives of other people. Share your possessions, and give yourself to others. Remember how Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul” (Matthew 16:25-26).
What was Jesus’ response to the disciple’s objections?
What do you hold back from God? Money? Time? Relationships?