Mark: Jesus Anointed at Bethany

Read: Mark 14:3-9

The scene comes out of nowhere, it seems. The leaders are plotting to kill Jesus, the Passover festival is swelling, and Jesus is hanging out with a leper. How can we begin to think that this is normal? The only routine that Jesus seems to have is no routine at all, except to say that His love for people is so far above my understanding that I can only read and weep.

…a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Mark 14:3

I’m in tears as I watch the scene unfold. This woman…such an outrageous act of devotion. Would I ever do anything close?

In the past, I’ve focused on the very expensive perfume, but missed the fact that both the jar and the perfume are precious commodities. Look what it says, “She broke the jar…” I suppose part of the process of creating such an extravagant perfume, the creator must seal the jar completely. The only way to get to the perfume is to break the jar.

The only way for Jesus to win for us all is to break His precious body, for His overwhelming love to flow out to us all.

Poured on His Head

Unlike tears swept with hair at Jesus’ feet, this bold act includes a closeness that suddenly creates an intimate scene. I doubt the jar was very large, something she holds in her hand. She broke it open and moved in close to Jesus. Close enough to pour the perfume on His head.

I pray that you will close your eyes, slow down a moment, and imagine the scene. A woman enters the home with a room of men honored by the presence of the Messiah. Unnoticed at first, she moves through the room with an alabaster jar in her hands. Smack! She breaks the jar open. It’s not a cork to slowly extract, there was a sharp sound, a harsh noise and suddenly the aroma fills the room. Immediately the men recognize the perfume.

For a moment, in my crazy imagination, I suspect they were excited, memories swept in, perhaps of wedding celebrations or some feast of a wealthy friend or an extravagant banquet. We remember music this way. A song takes us back to a place that we can never forget. Our sense of smell does as well. Suddenly we’re transformed to a place 20 years ago. This is that place.

I see Jesus receiving this anointing from the hands of someone who is moving in harmony with the Spirit. No words. Only action.

Time seems to stop for a moment.

In the next moment, their eyes came back into focus and they realized this woman was pouring the perfume, that perfume, on the head of Jesus.

Why this waste of perfume?

The men complained about the waste of perfume, a year’s wages dumped out for a moment of pleasure. While the aroma fills the air, the room is transformed from a dusty meeting place to one of luxurious surroundings. Those present miss the opportunity to be swept away by the beauty of the handcrafted perfume. They miss the beauty of Jesus reclining at their table. Their response is to rebuke, critique, offer their wise advise for a more appropriate use of such expensive oil.

Jesus is quick to put an end to their misguided criticism.

The Poor

The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. Mark 14:7

In a way it’s sad to read, we’ll always have poor amongst us. At the same time, we are challenged to help them — any time.


Unnamed. Anonymous. No recognition from the men that watched, complained, stood by completely confused. Jesus not only honors the woman for her gift, He carves her action in history. What she did that day in that place at that time.

Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Mark 14:9

Lord, may this be the day that we do that action which is required by you, even when it is completely misunderstood by everyone else in the room.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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