While Jesus, his friends and his disciples reclined around a table just hours before the crucifixion, Mary came into the room carrying the most expensive and rare thing any of them had seen. The alabaster flask of ointment was worth almost a year’s wages and was way out of the price range of anyone in that room. None of the men could have afforded it, and certainly none of the women could have. Chances are this rare flask of nard from the foothills of the Indian Himalayas was a family heirloom.
Mary broke it and poured it over the head and feet of Jesus Christ.
What a waste! The disciples, lead by Judas, immediately began to wag their fingers at the silly woman and list all the things that could have been done with all that money.
“Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” (14:4-5)
Just imagine all the food for the poor that could be bought with $40,000. How much clothing? How much shelter? The disciples chide Mary’s extravagant display with their pious practicality. Pouring that oil over Jesus like that was a waste.
Jesus had a different reaction.
“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (14:6)
By “beautiful,” Jesus means it was good, excellent, commendable, and even admirable. In other words, Mary’s act was far from a waste; it was behavior worthy of our admiration and imitation. Jesus tells the disciples they can still walk out the door and give to the poor—they will always be there. Jesus does not belittle or chastise the drive to be charitable and take care of those less fortunate than ourselves; he teaches them that he is worth more than anything else in this universe. And Jesus continues to admire what Mary did. She “did what she could.” She took the best she had and worshiped Christ with it. Worshiping and adoring Christ with everything she had was the best thing she could have done. Mary, without really knowing it, anointed Jesus’ body for burial. In the act of worship and sacrifice, Mary honored the will and plan of God without knowing exactly what was to come to pass. We do the same when we worship him. And wherever the gospel is preached, what she did will be taught and honored. This single, extravagant act of sacrificial worship still inspires us today. In contrast, the pious practicality of the rest of the disciples seems lame.
Jesus Christ has no hesitation telling us he is worth our all. Even in the face of all the nice and good things we can do for others, Jesus is still worth more than any of it. God’s glory demands my everything. We were made to find every ounce of our stability, meaning, joy, forgiveness, rapture, and purpose in God, and we find those things when we worship and adore him above everything else. When Christ tells us he is worthy of all our praise, it is not arrogance, it is love. If God did not reveal himself to us as the highest object of our affections, he would be concealing from us the fulfillment of our deepest longings.
By all means, work to help those less fortunate than yourselves, give aid to others when it is in your hand to do, but don’t use the disciple’s excuse to keep your best from Christ. Every good and wonderful thing in this life takes their rightful place when God is first. Every other use of your best is nothing but a waste.