The Perfect Gift Jn. 12:1-8

Sometimes when I give a gift, I want to give something they really need or at least really want. When it’s time for me to receive a gift (like before my birthday, or Mother’s Day) my daughter usually asks me what I want. Other times, she quietly notices when I complain about something not working right. Later I am surprised to discover she has given me the perfect gift.

Now, imagine what it must have been like for Mary. She wanted to give a gift to Jesus. What do you give a man who really does have everything? Since Jesus raised her brother, she owed Him a massive debt of gratitude. She faithfully listened to His prediction that He would go to Jerusalem, suffer and die. As she pondered this grievous reality, she felt an urgency to give or do something for Him before He died. Then she found the perfect gift. Nard was so exclusive, it was a sign of nobility or royalty. Sure, His skin could be anointed with cheaper perfumes, but Jesus, the Son of God deserved the very best.

There was only one problem, it cost around $30,000 by today’s standards. Where could she get so much money? She, Martha and Lazarus lived in a home, yet they had no servants, so we know they are middle class. We also presume they are single, since there is no mention of spouses or children. Their parents aren’t mentioned, which implies they either died or are elderly in the background. In those days, a single middle class woman usually had a dowry so she could marry a good man. The only reasonable option was that Mary chose to give her dowry. She gave everything, including her future, in the form of a lavish gift for Jesus. She loved Him more than anyone else.

As the men sat around the table enjoying their feast, she walked up to Jesus, broke an alabaster vial and began pouring. First she poured it on His noble head. Did the din of masculine conversation slowly stop as all eyes turned to stare in disbelief? Their noses instantly told them it was nard. With each drop that dripped over his head, down his hair and beard and onto His shoulders, her future of marriage and a family of her own dripped away. (Now the practical economist in me would have stopped at this point. I would have saved the rest to recover some of my dowry.) Once His head and shoulders were drenched, she poured the rest on Jesus’ dusty feet, wiping them with her hair. It was an intimate act of total devotion.

In the midst of this, Judas Ischariot grumbled about the waste of money. It should have been spent on the poor. Martha and Lazarus were silent. While others criticized her, Jesus spoke up to defend her. He knew her pure motives and ultimate desire to prepare Him for burial. Then He looked out over the centuries to today. He predicted that she and her magnificent gift would be remembered.

Mary carefully listened to Jesus and discerned what He needed most. No one else gave so completely. Looking at her commitment takes my breath away.

Today He is seated at His Father’s right hand. What can we give Him? What He wants from us is to tell His story to those who don’t know Him yet. The mission field has come into our neighborhoods and communities. Which neighbor or colleague could you share His Easter story with?

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