Anointed for Burial

Day 43

Holy Week – Wednesday

Matthew 26:1-16
Mark 14:1-11

On Wednesday of the Holy Week there was a dinner in Bethany. I don’t know who all was at the dinner, but I do know the names of seventeen people who were there: Simon the Leper (the host), Simon Peter, James and John the sons of Zebedee, Andrew, Philip, Matthew Levi, Nathanael Bartholomew, Thomas Didymus, James Alpheus, Lebbaeus Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas Iscariot, Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary, and the guest of honor, Jesus of Nazareth.

I also know that everyone of these people had been blessed by Jesus. I think it’s safe to say that Simon was no more a leper thanks to Jesus, the twelve disciples had the awesome priviledge of being called by Jesus to be apostles, Lazarus had been raised from the dead and Martha and Mary had been given their beloved brother back from the grave. And yet I get the feeling that those at the dinner had adopted a sort of casual familiarity toward Jesus…all except for Mary. Mary was incapable of being casual toward Jesus. She was the One Thing Woman whose entire life had its orbit around Jesus.

While Jesus was at the table, something compelled her to do something extravagant, something irrational, something far exceeding what is called for. Mary was as sensible as anyone else and she knew that what she was about to do was an unbounded extravagance, but she couldn’t help it. She was obsessed with doing this thing. She ran back to her house and got one of her most valuable possessions — an alabaster flask containing a pound of pure oil of spikenard. Spikenard is a root that grows only in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal and was very expensive. In fact this bottle of fragrant oil was worth about $15,000. Fifteen thousand dollars! What could be done with $15,000? What objects could be obtained or what charitable causes could be funded with $15,000? But Mary was only thinking about One Thing.

She hurried back to Simon’s home where she broke — not opened, mind you, but broke — the alabaster flask and poured the entire contents upon Jesus’ head.

“And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”

And the criticism began…

“Why this waste?”

“What was the purpose of this excessive extravagance?”

“This oil could have been sold and given to the poor.”


“Don’t you care about the poor?”

“If you really knew what is important you wouldn’t be wasting God’s money on such things.”

“You just don’t have any common sense; you need to become more practical.”

“It’s a sin to waste things, you know.”

And then Jesus spoke up…


“She has done a good work for Me. She’s done what she could.”

“She has anointed my body for burial.”


Judas had been the ringleader of the criticism, yet others had joined in. (Be careful of being influenced by others to heap criticism on those who are doing something for the Lord. You never know what kind of spirit may be behind it.)

Jesus’ rebuke had silenced them. I assume most of them were chastised by Jesus’ rebuke and adjusted their attitude, but Judas did not. Judas’ anger at Jesus’ defense of Mary’s extravagance was the final catalyst for betrayal.

“She has anointed My body for burial.”

Did anyone really hear those words? I don’t think so. But later they remembered them.

Within 36 hours Jesus would be in the throes of His passion. Spikenard is a very powerful fragrance and its scent will linger for days. When Jesus was sweating blood in Gethsemane, when Jesus was being scourged at Gabbatha, when Jesus was suffering at Golgotha, did He smell the scent of the spikenard and did it bring even the slightest measure of comfort to Him? I like to think so.

Jesus said wherever the gospel is preached, what Mary has done will be told as a memorial to her. I’m preaching the gospel on the internet coming up on midnight Wednesday morning…and I have just set up a memorial to Mary of Bethany.

May we be more like her. May we anoint Jesus with the precious oil of our prayers, our tears, our devotion, our worship. May we “waste” our lives on the One who poured out His life for us.



At noon today in the Upper Room we will have an hour long “Anointing the Christ” prayer and worship service. We have anointed the Upper Room with oil of spikenard that you might catch the scent of extravagant devotion to Christ.