Honoring Christ With Costly Gifts

"Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, .... very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment" (John 12:3).

This meal in Jesus' honor was "in the house of Simon the leper" (Mark 14:3). He also invited Mary and Martha, along with Lazarus, who had been "raised from the dead" (v.1). Other disciples were present, including Judas Iscariot, the treasurer of the group. Martha served on this occasion, and the evening of food and fellowship was certainly special to them all.

At an appropriate moment, Mary surprised everyone when she took a pound of expensive perfume and anointed Jesus' feet. As she wiped his feet, the house was filled with the sweet fragrance of the ointment (v.3).

Judas declared that this costly display was an impractical waste that could have been sold and given to the poor (v.5). Actually, this was a pretense for getting the money in order to pilfer out of the bag (v.6). Nonetheless, Judas' statement started others murmuring against Mary (see Mark 14:5).

Jesus rebuked her accusers in no uncertain terms, saying "let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me" (v.7a). Jesus saw Mary's act as looking forward to His upcoming death (v.7b). Mary's costly sacrifice, comparable to a year's wages for a rural worker, revealed her supreme value for Jesus' being broken and poured out for her!

Like Mary, Jesus always welcomes our costly gifts as true expressions of our love to Him. And like Judas, selfishness will always make plausible-sounding excuses for withholding them. Mary knew her sacrifice was justified. Judas felt it was a waste. These two represent opposite mindsets among all believers.

It is easy to praise Mary, but hard to imitate her. Like Mary, your greatest memorial are the costly gifts with which you honor Jesus. Like her, you should reserve the best for Jesus and expect to be criticized by those with little or no love for Him. And like her, coped Jesus to defend your costly giving.