HE SCENT OF HONEYSUCKLE SPILLING FROM A BUSH IN THE APARTMENT complex where I live added to my pleasure on a very warm Florida evening. I felt grateful for the one who planted it there so that I could take delight in its fragrance.
Flower scent is deeply satisfying to me; I simply enjoy it. So that evening as I relished the unexpected aroma, my thoughts turned to the story of Mary, Lazarus and Martha’s sister, recorded in all four of the Gospels.
The setting was a feast at Simon’s house, a man whom Jesus healed of leprosy. The feast was no small event; many Jews attended, including Mary’s brother, Lazarus, the “miracle man”—the one whom Jesus raised from the dead. With such an impressive host and attendees, you might say it was the social event of the year. These were diners of note. Without doubt, Simon sent invitations to those he knew were curious about Jesus and perhaps even those who were highly skeptical. The feast was not only a thank-You to Jesus for healing him, but also (certainly because of the guest list) an occasion to impress.
And who slipped in among the crowd to honor her Lord, but Mary. At a thank-You party, she needed to be there, if only to slip in and out again. Her plan was to quietly pay homage to her Lord for the magnificent gift He’d given her—forgiveness. She broke open the alabaster container, and the fragrance of expensive spikenard fully permeated the room as she anointed Jesus’ head and feet.
So great was Mary’s love for Jesus that she cried, and as her tears fell upon His feet, she toweled them with her hair. Gasps were heard, but she simply couldn’t do enough for Jesus. Did she spend her life savings? Most likely she did. Nard is costly—very. She didn’t mean to make a scene, but her presence as well as the fragrance was quickly found out.
Simon was outraged that Jesus would allow such a thing, and the jealous heart of Judas ignited with disfavor. When Judas spoke out about her waste, that it would have been better to put the money into the treasury bag, Jesus commended Mary’s gift. Thus, her gift hastened the design to carry out Jesus’ betrayal, because Judas hurried to the priests, asking, “What will you give me if I hand him over to you?” (Matt. 26:15, Message).* They agreed on 30 pieces of silver, paltry compared to the cost of Mary’s spikenard. Two acts of essence: one an act of love that prepared Jesus for His burial, the other an act of jealousy that prepared for His death.
Mary did for Jesus while He yet lived. She didn’t wait until He died. In that is a lesson for us today. Our greatest gifts of love are to be given for the Lord, and one way to reveal our love is not to neglect the people who are placed in our lives. Many times a person we know dies, and we attend the funeral or perhaps send flowers. But was it our presence—in person or by mail or by telephone—that they wanted, or even ached for?
Ellen White stresses that thought in her commentary of Mary’s gift: “Tenderness, appreciation, devotion, all are lavished upon one who sees not nor hears. Had these words been spoken when the weary spirit needed them so much, when the ear could hear and the heart could feel, how precious would have been their fragrance!” (The Desire of Ages, p. 560).
The Holy Spirit urged Mary to give her precious gift, and if we but heed His nudging, we too can be a fragrance of love for Jesus.
*Texts credited to Message are from The Message. Copyright ” 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
Betty Kossick, a freelance writer, lives with her husband John, in Ocala, Florida.