The first thing we see is Mary entering the scene in verse 3. She shows up with an “alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard.” I’m pretty sure perfume companies aren’t lining up to name their next scent “NARD!” Can you imagine?
“Oh my, what are you wearing? You smell great!”
“It’s the latest scent, it’s called Nard.”
So the question we need to ask is, what is this Nard and what is it used for?
The Alabaster Jar
The Alabaster Jar would have been made of white, semi-transparent stone which was used as a container for precious perfumes and ointments. Nard was a highly perfumed ointment used in a couple of different ways:
- Cosmetic use for hot climates
- Anointing the dead for burial
- Ritual uses for anointing priests and kings
- Would have been considered a wonderful gift for a king because of its worth
(Hmmm, sounds like we should be paying attention here)
But this still doesn’t tell us what this stuff is.
Well, “Nard,” which defines the kind of ointment in the vial, was a plant found way up in the Himalayan Mountains. The reason it was very expensive was because it was very difficult to get. According to (verse 5), “It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages.” An amazing fact to understand is the average working man made roughly one denarii a day. So what she poured on Jesus this day was worth an entire year’s wages!
If we were to stop here and only focus on the worth of the ointment, we would only be telling half the story. Mary not only had an expensive jar of ointment, but she did something with it.
We read what she did in (verse 3), “She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. John 12 adds that she anointed His feet and wiped His feet with her hair.” The reference to breaking the jar is significant because it showed her whole-hearted devotion to Jesus. Having served its purpose, the jar would never be used again”.
Her actions not only demonstrated her deep devotion and love for the Jesus, but it also demonstrated her understanding into His true identity and purpose.
This is made clear by Christ’s own interpretation of her actions. What did she understand that the others had been insensitive and blind to?
This Act revealed she knew Christ as:
- King: Such an extravagant gift was only lavished on a king. This was very appropriate in view of the fact that on the next day He would proclaim Himself the King of Israel through his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
- Priest: John 12:3 and Mark 14:8 define this as an anointing. As priests were anointed, this is in keeping with the fact that Christ was a Royal Priest and was about to make atonement for His people.
- The Savior Who Must Die: Although the disciples had a hard time understanding Jesus’ teaching that he must die, Mary believed the teaching and demonstrated her belief by what she did.
She undoubtedly recognized her sin and need of a suffering Savior. She understood the reason for His death was her sin, and the significance of His death was for her salvation. Nothing has changed about the facts of why Jesus died:
The reason for His death was for our sin,
but the significance of His death was for our salvation.
(Verse 8) reads, “She did what she could.” The truth is:
She did what she could, not what she should!
Many on the room would argue with Jesus, telling him that she had no business doing what she did. But she led by example and did what she could, not what she should.
Today I feel like I need to ask you, at the end of your story will people say, “you did what you should” or will they say, “you did what you could?”
I believe Mary’s story is an incredible examples of holiness. It’s allowing God to set the bar and then for us to break the jar. It’s living a life of full surrender, holding nothing back from God. It’s living and knowing it’s different from the worlds view, but you don’t answer to the world.