No one knows how she even gained entrance to Simon’s house. After all, it was a gentleman’s dinner, as all group dinners were in that day. Certainly no females allowed…they were ranked somewhere close to dogs. Except somehow, scandalously, this woman barged in, ignoring their barbs and outrage as she anointed her beloved Jesus.
She carried an extremely expensive jar of perfume – as in, worth a year’s salary – and she proceeded to lovingly pour it on Jesus’s head. Then she washed His feet in this fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair.
John said, The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume, JN.12:3, ESV.
Imagine how lovely that was, filling a room of men smelling of dirty feet and dusty roads with the beautiful fragrance of perfume.
Did you know? Of the five senses, smell is most closely linked to memory. We all likely have a smell that links to a memory – mom’s coffee cake to Christmas morning, for instance.
I’m not implying that she was fully aware of the task she was performing, although she probably knew Jesus wasn’t long for this world, breaking the rules as He was known for doing. She simply lavished her most valued possession on her Lord out of love. Jesus defined what she had done.
Who Was This Woman?
Matthew and Mark simply call her a woman. However, John identifies her as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mary had shown her devotion to Jesus earlier in her story, so in perspective, this display of love was nothing new for her.
She Was Offensive To Them…
Unfortunately, in that culture women were not allowed to be in the company of men who were not their husbands. Furthermore, they were definitely not allowed to touch a man who was not related to her. Mary checked off all the wrong boxes when she entered Simon’s house uninvited!
As you can imagine, the men were indignant, including some of the disciples. Interestingly, despite all the social and religious rules Mary had broken, the main thing the men were outraged about was their belief that the expensive oil she had poured on Jesus had been wasted. These men self-righteously proclaimed that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. They remained blinded to the King who sat in their midst.
And they scolded her.
But Not Offensive to Jesus
This is the upside-down kingdom of Jesus. While the men were posturing about the poor, Jesus saw their hearts, (see John 12:4-6). He defended Mary, the scandalous, uninvited female guest. In Mark Jesus told them, Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. Matthew also recorded Jesus saying, Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.
In addition, Jesus memorialized her by saying:
12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 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.”Matthew 26:12-13, ESV
I wonder why we don’t – remember, that is.
Jesus said that wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world – in Africa or England, in Brazil or Iraq, America or Colombia, Mary would be remembered for the beautiful thing she did for Him. Every Palm Sunday or Easter she would be held in memory for doing what she could, as Jesus said In Mark 14:8-9.
But she isn’t, is she? Jesus wanted us to remember, but we have forgotten, practically deleting her from history.
Maybe, if we instituted the fragrance of oil in our worship, the Holy Spirit would help us remember the picture of selfless love, devotion and service Mary exemplified when Jesus was surrounded by men who still wanted to make Him an earthly king.
She had done a beautiful thing to Him. May we be reminded by Mary’s bold, passionate sacrifice that we, as women, can do beautiful things for Jesus, too – even if we make some men uncomfortable…
or even indignant.