Holy Week in Real Time: Wednesday
Open Your Bible
Mark 14:3-11, Matthew 26:14-16, Luke 22:3-6, Zechariah 11:12-13
BY Russ Ramsey
On the Wednesday before His death, Jesus was still. Though Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of Holy Week were filled with harrowing experiences that seemed to be drawing Him ever nearer to His death, on Wednesday Jesus stayed out of the public eye.
On this day, Jesus and His disciples had gone to the home of a man in Bethany known as Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6). Simon belonged to a growing part of the population known not for their accomplishments, but for what was wrong with them. It was a difficult life, but it must also have been strangely liberating since the first thing people learned about Simon was his broken past. Simon lived among the few who did not have to pretend to be what they were not. He was Simon, the leper. People could choose his company or reject it, but that was who he was.
In Simon’s home, during their meal together, Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’ sister, came to Jesus with an alabaster flask of perfume (Mark 14:3). She had been saving this perfume, worth a year’s wages, to perform this very act.
She began to pour the perfume on Jesus’ head and feet, which required breaking open its container. Like popping the cork on a $20,000 bottle of champagne, Mary intentionally and deliberately offered Jesus everything she had. By giving Him her most valuable possession, Mary was expressing that she knew what Jesus was about to give of Himself was for her.
The disciples reacted like many men often do. They considered the value of her perfume and regarded her actions as though she might as well have been burning a year’s wages in a bread oven. But they dressed their indignation up in the noble auspices of concern for the poor: Think of the poor people who could have benefited from the sale of this perfume (Mark 14:4-5).
But this was not how her actions hit Jesus. He came to her aid. What Mary is doing is beautiful, He said to them (Mark 14:6).
Appreciate the doctrinal principle here. The perfume could have been sold for a year’s wages, but what is perfume for? Is it merely a commodity Mary should have held on to in the event that she needed to cash it in? Is this how God would expect her to regard this valuable resource?
Apparently not. Perfume is meant to be poured out, released into the air until it is gone, in order to fill the room with its beautiful and startling aroma. So Mary breaks open the jar and the scent electrifies the senses of everyone present, and Jesus says it is beautiful.
Everything in creation testifies to a Creator who delights in beauty for beauty’s sake. So many things that are beautiful didn’t need to be. And it was God who elected to make them that way. He opted to make autumn a season saturated with bold, changing color. He didn’t have to make the setting sun the spectacle that it is. But He did. Why?
One reason must be because beauty pleases Him. And another may simply be to arrest people by their senses when they’re otherwise just plodding along, heads down, living within the economy of pragmatism.
What Mary did that day was beautiful and Jesus wanted everyone to know it. She was preparing Him for burial. There was honor and kindness in her gesture. He returned the honor by saying history would never forget her act of beauty (Mark 14:8-9). And we haven’t.
written by Russ Ramsey
adapted from Behold the King of Glory