The account of Mary’s anointing of the Lord is found in John 12.

This may seem like a beautiful account of Mary’s devotion to the Lord, but really, if you were present at that moment, you would have found it awkward and intense.

  • Awkward, because she broke cultural norms in order to step into a moment reserved only for men, to anoint the Lord.
  • Intense, because her actions were misunderstood and totally inappropriate in those days.

What is important to note, however, is that she was the one who changed the atmosphere in that place and brought a pervading fragrance. The guest list included the apostles, Lazarus who was raised from the dead, Martha who was the epitome of service, and many other “all-stars”.

Yet it was Mary who made the difference to Jesus and brought fragrance to the place.

Does God need our money or material goods? He doesn’t. But the cost paid is an expression of love.

I think there’s a lesson for us here. I think this was a jab made by the Divine Author. The least likely person in the crowd made the difference in this gathering. She was too young. She was not of the right gender. She did not carry the authority. Yet she was the one who moved the Lord.

What’s the key for us here? Can we likewise shift atmospheres and bless the Lord?


1. She gave an offering

And it wasn’t just an ordinary offering.

It was sacrificial. It was worth a full year’s income. There’s one thing we need to realise: Money is one of the primary means we express value with.

Think of Abraham and David: Each time these men had an encounter with God, they brought an offering to the Lord. This is such a consistent pattern in Scripture that we must take note of it.

Does God need our money or material goods? He doesn’t. But the cost paid is an expression of love.

“It’s worth paying more for the one you love.”

Years ago, my senior pastor gave me an invaluable piece of advice.

I was in the process of purchasing our first home with my wife, and we saw an apartment that she really liked. In my accountant’s mindset, I had decided already what the property was worth and the price I’d pay for it. But the asking price was higher than I was prepared to pay.

It was then that my pastor said to me, “It’s worth paying more for the one you love.” It helped me understand that it wasn’t about how much the property was worth – but how much my bride was worth.

2. She gave her future

This perfume wasn’t just any other fragrance – it was as if it came from the major fashion houses of Jerusalem.

This perfume was what every young girl saved up all her life for, an exquisite anointing for herself on her wedding day. It was meant to be the thing that would mark the beginning of a new life.

But Mary gave it to the Lord in order to prepare for His coming death at Calvary. It wasn’t just a mere gift. It was a laying down of her life. She wasn’t just giving a sacrificial offering, she was giving her future to the Lord.

Giving our future to the Lord is a road less travelled. All our lives, we seek to secure our future: We pursue our studies and plan our finances so that we may bring a level of certainty to our lives.

But the Christian walk requires trust in God, especially when our well-organised and planned-out lives get deeply uncomfortable and unfamiliar.

3. She gave herself up to be misunderstood

The criticism that came at her would have been predictable. Frowns and disapproving gazes – could she have expected anything less when she determined to take such an action?

Though she faced being misunderstood, she continued. The compulsion of love pressed her forward. In the end, it wasn’t just a flask of perfume that was poured out.

She herself was emptied before the Lord.

Emptied of her reputation, her dignity and any form of vindication. Her eyes transfixed solely on the One she sought to serve. She gave her all in that single moment because it was an opportunity of a lifetime.

In fact, it was an opportunity of an eternity – to anoint the Lord in preparation for His greatest trial. With that single act, she etched herself into the eternal records of the life of the Son of God.

… it was an opportunity of an eternity – to anoint the Lord in preparation for His greatest trial.

There were many more illustrious and well-qualified candidates at that gathering, who could have had that epic moment in scriptural history.

But Mary was the one. She managed to do it because she was willing to give herself fully to the Lord. In the same measure, our ordinary moments in daily life can also be transformed into fragrant worship unto the Lord – evident to all.

The pattern is given to us, but are we willing to make the sacrifice?

This article was first published on Cornerstone Community Church’s website and is republished with permission.