John 12:3 “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.”
Just a few days before Jesus would be arrested, He and his disciples spent the night in a small town near Jerusalem called Bethany, where his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived (they were all siblings).
You might remember that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead! In fact, the dinner they all had that night was to honor Jesus and thank Him for bringing Lazarus back to life.
So Lazarus sat with Jesus, Martha was busy serving the meal (just like she had in Luke 10), and Mary had a special surprise.
Mary, you see, had a pint (just about a soda can-size) of pure nard. Nard is a funny word; it’s a kind of perfume made from a plant that was only grown in India, a REALLY long ways away from Israel, so it was very, very expensive.
In fact, the Bible says it was worth 300 days of work for the average worker! Can you imagine working for almost an entire year just to get a soda can’s worth of perfume?
So what would Mary do with such expensive oil? She loved Jesus so much, and she was so grateful to Him for bringing her brother back, that she “anointed” Him with the oil, which means she spread it on His head and feet in this story.
Anointing someone with perfume was a way to show everyone that this is a person that you should respect, and with such a rare perfume, she was showing Jesus A LOT of respect. People who just died were also anointed with oil before they were buried to cover the smell of their bodies breaking down. That’ll be important to know in just a minute.
This made one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, really angry. This is the same disciple that would later betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, because he loved money more than Jesus.
Judas said, “Why did you waste this perfume? It could have been sold and the money given to the poor!” But Judas wasn’t really interested in helping poor people; he just wanted to steal the money for himself.
Jesus knew that; He also knew that Mary did this out of her love for Him, and that He Himself would die and be buried soon. Mary was preparing Him for His death, even if she didn’t realize it.
So, Jesus told Judas to leave Mary alone.
“It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial,” He said (John 12:7). Even though helping others who don't have much is important for Christians then and now, it’s even more important to put Jesus first, especially for Mary when His time on earth was about to end.
So why did Mary pour expensive oil on Jesus’ head and feet? Because she loved Him so much she would give Him anything to show it, and she was preparing Jesus for His sacrifice for everyone on the cross (even if she didn’t realize it).
And why did Judas argue that the oil should be sold? Even though he said he wanted to help the poor with it, he truly wanted to keep it to his selfish self.
Do you think you should be more like Mary, and give Jesus everything, or more like Judas, who wanted to take what wasn’t his? What are you willing to give to Jesus? Is there anything you want to keep back?