She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. (Mark 14:8)
“She did what she could.”
If this were to be my epitaph I’d be more than content, if it meant what it does regarding Mary. The sister of Martha and Lazarus, Mary was the woman whose first choice was to sit at Jesus’ feet, so she could use every minute to hear His voice and see His face.
At this dinner at the home of Simon, Mary did what she could to honor Jesus. She gave what she had. She poured it all out for Him, not counting the cost. She poured out her tears of repentance and gratitude on the feet of the One who had taught her with patience and understanding; the One who had cried when he saw her grief, the One who had raised her brother from the dead. She took the most valuable thing she owned, a pint of pure nard, and anointed her Lord with it.
Others criticized her for wasting a valuable resource on Jesus when it could have benefitted many. But she kept her focus on Jesus. There was nothing she wouldn’t do, nothing she wouldn’t give, for Him.
The fragrance of her gift filled the house, but it was the fragrance of her love that filled Jesus’ heart. He declared that her anointing of Him would be spoken of wherever the good news of His atoning death and resurrection would be preached, and it is faithfully recorded in all four gospels.
Mary had been forgiven much, and she loved much. Understanding our need for forgiveness is what produces repentance, which must precede God’s forgiveness.
Simon, the host of this dinner, was known as Simon the Leper. If he had been a leper, Jesus must have healed him; otherwise no one except Jesus would have come near him. He is also identified as a Pharisee. Thus, he needed healing not only from the physical scourge of leprosy, but the spiritual scourge of pride and legalism. This may well have been the reason Jesus came to the meal Simon was giving in His honor, to move him along in his spiritual re-birth. The fact that the resurrected Lazarus was also there indicated that Simon was removing himself from the main body of the Pharisees, who wanted to kill both Lazarus and Jesus.
Martha was still working, serving at the dinner. Once again, Mary had stepped outside the traditional woman’s role. Martha’s service was no doubt appreciated as she carried in the meal with its succulent aromas. The food came and went, but the fragrance of Mary’s selfless devotion is enshrined for all time.
It is the fragrance of love for Jesus, the sweetness that fills first a heart, and then a life that has been changed forever. At its most fragrant it suffuses every thought, every word, every act. It pours out on others in ways that witness more than words alone could ever do.
The love of Jesus, poured out for us, is its source. The response of love for Jesus is its sweet fulfilment, the sweetest fragrance of all.