Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. John 12:7
Generally left out of the discussion of passion week is what happened at Bethany. Of all the places where Jesus went during His ministry I find no other place so special to Him as in Bethany,the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. That is where Martha first invited Him and His disciples for supper. Bethany was where Mary learned to sit and listen to Jesus. Bethany was the place where Jesus declared, “I am the Resurrection and the Life!” Bethany was where Lazarus was raised from the dead. Now, Bethany was the special place where Jesus went to prepare for his journey to the cross.
It was while Jesus reclined at the dinner table that Mary set in motion the beauty of that moment that Jesus said was a preparation for His burial. While Jesus sat at the head the table surrounded by the crowd, Mary searched for something she could do. In her heart was born a great longing to do something more.
She quietly slipped away during the activity and from her private quarters brought out the precious alabaster jar. In that jar were a year’s wages stored in perfume. We do not know if it was a gift she received from an admirer or a dowry set aside by her father to present at her marriage. The only thing we know for sure is that the value of the ointment was so high that it shocked the room into silence as she broke it open and poured its contents, first over the head, and then on the feet of Jesus Christ.
The guests were stupefied, and all was quiet. Then at Judas’ prompting the disciples all began to criticise her saying, “Why this waste?” But Mary understood what none of them could see. Only in Mary’s heart was the clear knowledge that soon, this most precious of all men would be gone. This was her time and she chose to use it to lavish Him with pure worship. The gift of her perfumed ointment would linger, so that the disciples could still catch its aroma a few days later at the last supper. The delicate sweetness would have wafted into Judas’ nostrils as he gave the betraying kiss in the garden. The soldiers who beat Jesus would still smell its fragrance when they pressed the crown of thorns down on his head. Then as Jesus bowed that gentle head and gave His life,He would carry Mary’s love gift right to the throne of God.
But does the worship of Bethany flow from my own heart today ? Am I like one of the disciples, focusing only on temporary things and missing seeing the infinite value of Jesus? This is the last day before beginning of the week of all weeks, I remembered that Jesus commanded us to tell again the story of Mary and her gift of worship, wherever the gospel was told. He wanted us to remember because only a worship like hers can carry us beyond the sufferings of this life. Only the perfume of our own alabaster jar will find its way past the world of men and time and into the eternal presence of God.