This story of Mary of Bethany’s extravagant act of anointing Jesus for burial holds many profound lessons for every genuine Christian today. The narrative contains the only sermon that Judas ever preached. Listen to his three-word protest.
“Why this waste?”
When Judas saw Mary’s worshipful act, he exploded with criticism, saying, “Why are you being so wasteful? You could have helped the poor with this small fortune!”
But Mary stepped out in faith. Her act of extravagant love was shameless, selfless and risked both embarrassment and the sneers and jeers of harsh criticism. But love compelled her.
However, her act was rudely interrupted by a mean-spirited complaint. Her token of exquisite devotion exposed her own heart and the heart of Judas as well as the other disciples who agreed with him.
Judas sought to cloak the real motive behind his complaint with pious rhetoric. It was a case of cold-heartedness judging warm-heartedness under the guise of being spiritual. Unfortunately, Judas is not alone in engaging in this behavior.
The contrast between Mary and Judas is dramatic. In Mary, we see the light of love. In Judas, we see the darkness of sin. Mary anointed Jesus for burial; Judas prepared Him for betrayal. Mary loved Christ in preparation for His death; Judas helped bring about His death.
I’m comforted to know that Jesus is an advocate to all who give Him the place of preeminence. He rises to the defense of every Mary. While Mary was misunderstood and denigrated, she never justified, defended, or explained herself. Though she only speaks once in the Gospels, the legacy of her life speaks volumes by her actions.
For these reasons, Mary came closer to Jesus’ inner heart than anyone else. On two occasions when Mary was wrongly accused, she uttered no word of self-defense. Instead, Jesus defended her on both occasions.
Jesus prized Mary’s love and faith in a special way. He gave her act a deathless fame that would spread everywhere the Gospel was preached. Her good work won His warmest praise, being rewarded with a renown that was beyond the legacy of kings. And in the face of abrasive criticism, Jesus defended and commended Mary with words of matchless beauty and tenderness.
Mary’s loving act of anointing Jesus with the most expensive item she owned is one case among several where a woman got it right while the men got it wrong.
Every disciple of Christ has much to learn from Mary. She happens to be my hero.
To learn more about this topic, see Frank Viola’s God’s Favorite Place on Earth.