The account of Mary’s anointing of the Lord is found in John 12. This may seem like a beautiful account of Mary’s devotion to the Lord, but really, if you could be present at that moment, you’d have found it awkward and intense. Awkward, because she broke cultural norms in order to step into a moment reserved only for men, to anoint the Lord. Intense and perhaps hostile, because her actions were misunderstood and totally inappropriate in those days.
What though is important to note is that she was the one who changed the atmosphere in that place and brought a pervading fragrance. While the guest list included the apostles – Lazarus, who was raised from the dead, Martha, the one who was the epitome of service, and many others; it was Mary who brought the fragrance. She brought the Presence of God.
I think there’s a poignant lesson for us here. I think this was a jab made by the Divine Author. The least likely person in the crowd made the difference in this gathering. She was too young. She was not of the right gender. She did not carry the authority. Yet she was the one who moved the Lord. What’s the key for us here? Can we likewise shift atmospheres and bring God’s Presence?
Here are a few things to note:
1. She Gave An Offering
It wasn’t just an ordinary offering. It was sacrificial. It was worth a full year’s income. There’s one thing we need to realise – money is one of the primary means by which we express value. Whether it be in Abraham’s life or the life of David, each time these men had an encounter with God, they’d bring an offering to the Lord. This is such a consistent pattern in Scripture that we must take note of it. Does God need our money or material goods? I highly doubt so. The cost paid is an expression of love.
Years ago, my senior pastor gave me an invaluable piece of advice that stays with me till today. I was in the process of purchasing our first home with my wife and we saw an apartment that she really liked. In my accountant mindset, I had decided already what the property was worth and the price I’d pay for it. The asking price though was higher than I was prepared to pay. It was then that my pastor said to me, “It’s worth paying more for the one you love.” It helped me understand that it wasn’t about how much the property was worth, but how much my bride was worth. It changed my life.
2. She Gave Her Future
This perfume wasn’t just a latest fragrance put out, but the major fashion houses of Jerusalem. It was what every young girl saved up all her life to purchase in order to anoint herself on her day of wedding. It was meant to be the thing that would mark the beginning of a new life. Instead, she gave it to the Lord in order to prepare for His coming death at Calvary. It wasn’t just a mere gift; it was a laying down of her life. She wasn’t just giving a sacrificial offering, she was giving her future to the Lord.
Giving our future to the Lord is a road less travelled. All our lives, we seek to secure our future. We pursue our studies and plan our finances so that we may bring a level of certainty to our lives. Yet the crux of our Christian walk requires a level of trust that’s deeply uncomfortable and unfamiliar in our well-organised and planned out lives.
3. She Gave Herself Up To Be Misunderstood
The critique that came at her was predictable. The frowned looks. The disapproving gazes. Could she have expected anything less when she determined to embark upon these actions? Yet despite all the possibilities of being misunderstood, she continued. The compulsion of love pressed her forward. In the end, it wasn’t just a flask of perfume that was poured out.
She, herself was emptied before the Lord. Emptied of her reputation, her dignity and any form of vindication. Her eyes transfixed solely on the One whom she sought to serve. She gave her all in that single moment because it was an opportunity of a lifetime. In fact, it was an opportunity of an eternity – to anoint the Lord in preparation for His greatest trial. With that single act, she etched herself into the eternal records of the life of the Son of God.
There were many more illustrious and well-qualified candidates at that gathering, who could’ve turned an ordinary party into an epic moment in scriptural history. Instead, Mary stole the moment. She managed to do it because she was willing to give herself in a manner that attracted the notice of the Lord. In the same measure, our ordinary moments in our daily lives can also be transformed into situations where the fragrance of worship becomes evident to all. The pattern is given to us, but are we willing to be the ones to pay the price to bring His Presence?