AMONG the bands of pilgrims who climbed the steep road from Jericho to Jerusalem, came the disciples and the Lord on their way to the Passover. They rested in Bethany where Mary and Martha and Lazarus lived. It was, I think, a Sabbath evening, and they made the Lord a supper there in the house of Simon the leper, probably one who had been healed of leprosy. Martha served, but Lazarus was one of them that reclined at the table with the Lord. Mary came with an alabaster cruse holding a pound of ointment of spikenard, very precious.
We have learned before of such a cruse made of alabaster, a fine white stone like marble. It was a little flask perhaps with a long slender neck and sealed. Ointments were made of olive oil mixed with fragrant spices. The spikenard was a plant which grew in the mountains of India, and was highly valued for its fragrance. The cruse of ointment which Mary brought was “very costly;” three hundred pence was named as its value, which is a great deal when we remember that a penny was a day’s wages. She broke the box, perhaps Ihe neck, or the wax with which it was sealed; and you know what she did with the precious ointment. But let us read the beautiful story again.
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.—John XII. 1-11.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Martha >> Love in outward service, not free from a sense of importance and anxious care
Mary (sitting at the Lord’s feet to hear His word) >> Interior and trustful affection
“The house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” >> Home where love and kindness are, and grateful love and worship of the Lord
The sacred oil in ointments >> Love
Spices and odors >> Humility and gratitude and sweet qualities which make love precious
The olive oil >> Heavenly love for the Lord and one another, which heals and softens and makes all go smoothly between men
The sweet spices which make it fragrant >> The humility and gratitude and other sweet thoughts which blend with love and make it delightful
Pouring the ointment upon the Lord’s feet >> A love for His perfect life
Wiping His feet with the hair >> The abandon of perfect love, and the humble effort to bring the particulars of our life into contact with the Lord’s life
The remonstrance of Judas >> The desire of self-love to withhold service from the Lord and to spoil good works with a secret motive of advantage to oneself
Three hundred >> Completeness
The three hundred pence which Judas would have put into his bag >> How all of love may be spoiled by a selfish spirit
The Lord said that Mary’s anointing was for His burial >> Resurrection
Ointments of burial >> The love that would hold one who has gone in remembrance >> The deeper love which knows that there is no death and which seeks to keep the heavenly presence near
Mary should be known for her anointing of the Lord >> In our love for Him we find our own immortal life
“The poor always ye have with you; but Me ye have not always.” >> Deep, true love towards Him is more precious than love to one another
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum