An extravagant, appropriate sacrifice

Published 8:34 pm Friday, March 24, 2017

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

“And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, ‘Why was the ointment wasted like that?’ For the ointment could have been sold for three hundred denarii … And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone … she has done a beautiful thing for me … And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3-9)


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The incident above took place during Passion Week. Jesus was at a dinner party, at the home of “Simon the Leper.” Who was this man?

We know he was no longer a leper. Had he still suffered from leprosy, there is no way he would have been doing something this public. Jesus has probably healed him of leprosy.

The Gospel of John also tells us that Lazarus was sitting at the table. This is the Lazarus who had been raised from the dead by Jesus. John tells us that Lazarus’ sister, Martha, was serving.

And then into the room came Mary, Lazarus’ other sister. Mary broke open a flask of “pure nard” and emptied it on Jesus’ head.

This ointment was used for anointing, and it was incredibly expensive. In fact, 300 denarii was worth about a years’ wages for the average person.

But the others in the room did not commend Mary for her extravagant gift. Instead, they reprimanded her. They thought the money could have been used in more productive ways. After all, the ointment’s fragrant scent could not last for long.

But in that they were wrong. Jesus said the fragrance of Mary’s gift would linger for as long as the gospel is preached throughout the world. Indeed it has, for we are still speaking of it.

Jesus called Mary’s gift “a beautiful thing.” Why?

First, she was motivated by pure love. Mary was the opposite of a calculating person. She simply loved Jesus and wanted to show her love for him.

Second, she acted on the prompting of the Spirit. How often does the Holy Spirit gently prompt us to do something for God, and we talk ourselves out of it?

We let “common sense” prevail. We miss the opportunity to spontaneously do some act of kindness, or speak some word of life.

Third, her gift was sacrificial. Think of all the things you could do with a years’ wages. Mary poured it all out on Jesus. In doing so she was anticipating what Jesus was going to do for all of us in just a couple of days.

Jesus, you see, was about to be broken, and his blood was about to be poured out on the cross. He would withhold nothing, but give all of himself for us.

The pure nard that was spilled out anticipated the pure love that was about to be broken and spilled out for all of us.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.