Jesus said He would die in Jerusalem, but every one of His friends assured Him He wouldn’t. All except one.
Only Mary of Bethany accepted the news. Only she believed and grieved what He said would happen. Only she valued their last, precious days together. All the special evenings Jesus spent in their home, their conversations, the flashes of faith when she knew in her soul He was Messiah—all these moments were ending. In the greater grief, this was her private sorrow.
Time raced down a runaway track towards this weekend. Jesus must have also felt the urgency. This was His week to stand face-to-face with evil. The weight of approaching grief hung over Him. He would be dead by next weekend.
Yet on this Saturday night He gathered with His favorite people. Simon (formerly known as the leper) threw Him a dinner party and invited His disciples and friends. Into this scene, walked Mary.
She came prepared. With a year’s salary, she bought an alabaster jar of spikenard perfume. With this outrageously expensive offering in hand, Mary stood above her friend, who sat low at a table and broke the bottle’s long neck. Usually sprinkled a drop at a time, she poured the oil over Jesus’ head. The undiluted myrrh streamed down His hair, then shoulders, over His chest, down His legs and over His feet. It’s what a loved one does to prepare a body for burial.
The symbolism was not lost on Jesus.
Mary had developed the habit of breaking cultural rules. First, she sat at Jesus’ feet while He taught, something no respectable woman would ever dare to do. It angered her sister; but it pleased the Lord. Now, she poured out this exquisite oil; it incensed the greedy disciple, and confused the others. But again, it pleased the Lord.
“Let her alone.” Jesus defended her. “She’s doing something significant and wonderful for Me.”
Mission accomplished. She could not stop the evil waiting to swallow Him. Instead she expressed this tenderness while He was still with them. Her tears told her sorrow. Her sacrifice spoke of His imminent death. She didn’t try to stop Him, even if she could. She just let Him be her Savior.
So potent was the perfume Mary emptied out that it would cling to Jesus’ hair and skin for days. Perhaps smelling its lingering aroma as He sweat and bled through those extensive hours of torture and dying on Friday was His one trace of comfort. The sweet fragrance of love poured out—as He did the same.