In John Chapter 12, there is a story about how six days before Passover, Jesus went to the home of his three friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, for a meal. This story perfectly depicts the roles that these three siblings have adopted with Jesus. They each have a certain relationship with Jesus and their relationship is flavored by their unique personalities and approach to the Master.
John relates that Martha was serving and Lazarus was reclining with Jesus. These were usual roles for men and women in those days. And they were usual roles for both Martha and Lazarus. Earlier in the book of John, we saw Martha racing around serving food to a houseful of people, frustrated with her sister who was seemingly not helping her enough. And we saw that Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus by the way Jesus wept before he raised him from the dead.
So Martha is serving and Lazarus is chatting, but Mary is doing something different. She is doing something that no one has ever seen before. Mary takes a pint of pure nard – an expensive perfume worth a year’s wages – and poures it on Jesus’ feet and then wipes his feet with her hair.
Immediately, Judas Iscariot, whom we know betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, speaks up in protest that the perfume was wasted on Jesus. He says that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. This was a man whose hand was always in the till so that’s why he would have wanted to see the perfume sold.
But back to Mary – why did she do such a thing? What prompted her to take expensive perfume and offer it to Jesus along with the humble act of washing his feet with her hair? I think she did it because she had developed a habit – a lifestyle really – of worship and devotion. The only way that she could offer such an extravagant gift is because she had an extravagant love for the Lord. This was a love she had cultivated. It didn’t come overnight. She put herself in the position of allowing herself to be overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus so that she could be an extravagant worshiper.