“Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me” – Mark 14:6
What have you done for the Lord lately? Do you feel His prodding, His urging, His call and are hesitating, resisting or holding back? Do you fear or have you been told that ministry or giving to ministry in some way is a waste of time? Perhaps you’re considering college; Bible college; or seminary. Maybe you have your entire life in front of you and are wondering, What should I do? Maybe you’ve lived most of your life for yourself. Maybe you’re coming to terms with how the Lord would have you live out the remaining portion of breath He has blessed you with. Maybe you’ve considered giving your life in ministry but are being discouraged to do so because others would prefer you spend your life in “making a living,” “making money,” or “making a name for yourself.” Maybe you’re concerned with a pension; with retirement? Are you hearing comments like, “Ministry, really? Can’t you come up with something better than that? “Or, “Ministry? You’re not going into ministry are you? What a waste of time!” Or, “You’re giving to what, ministry?!” Let me tell you something, nothing that is done or given for Jesus is ever a waste in any way.
Jesus was in “Bethany at the house of Simon the leper” on the night He was to be betrayed. In a few short hours He would be brutalized and crucified for the redemption of humanity. John’s gospel account tells us it was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus who “came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard” and “broke the flask and poured it on His head” (John 12:3; Mark 14:3). It was Lazarus who had been raised from the dead by Jesus (John 11). What memories; what incredible miraculous blessings from God. And all of it was percolating in Mary. And what was happening inside led to a lavish act by Mary. The oil was worth 300 denarii or a year’s wages (Mark 14:5; John 12:6). A year’s wages! A year’s salary poured out on Jesus’ feet! Would you do that?
The disciples, led by Judas, felt at least the oil could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor (Mark 14:5; John 13:29). Logical. Reasonable. Pragmatic. Someone who is a good steward, or thrifty, would think like that. They were indignant, angry. Of course we know Judas was really concerned with pilfering the proceeds. But the other disciples may very well have had a legitimate concern (cf. John 12:6). What would you have thought? What did Jesus think?
Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you. Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:6-9).
There’s a lot to learn in this passage. There’s something vital to take away from this account. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” That means that she did something worth taking note of, worth repeating; worth copying and doing ourselves. What she did left us an example. What was her memorial? What is it we should remember and also do?
“She has done a good work for Me.” What is the nature of this good work she did? It was costly; valuable. It cost her a year’s wages. It was total. It was impractical, unreasonable, and not to logical as far as the male disciples were concerned. Maybe they were thinking, Just like a woman. But look deeper. It is likely this oil was something that was very precious to her. Precious oil was often purchased as a kind of investment for the future; it was a valued commodity; a precious currency. It may have been her dowry; something to be given her husband upon their marriage. If she were to die before marrying it may have been poured out on her own body in burial. By pouring it out on Jesus it was as though she was saying, “I give my future, my family, my happiness, my hopes and dreams, my life; I pour it all out to You Jesus.” Pouring out this costly oil was an act of supreme, deep and total devotion to Jesus. Have you poured yourself out to Jesus like that? Who holds your future? Or are you like the disciples, too practical and reserved for something like that?
This good work was exorbitant. When was the last time you did something lavish, exorbitant for Jesus? When was the last time you went all the way for Jesus? When was the last time your worship of Jesus took priority over your future plans? When was the last time you gave something to Jesus or for His glory that actually cost you something? Some say “I can’t afford to give.” Looking at Mary and her good work seems to tell us, “You can’t afford not to give.” At some point she came to realize, “I must give.” Jesus said, “She has done what she could.” She could not have done anything less. How about you?
But what about the poor? Don’t mistake what Jesus was saying. He isn’t minimizing ministry to the poor. He was maximizing our worship and commitment to Him. The poor and caring for them is extremely important. But it pales in comparison to how we spend our time with Jesus. In fact, if you don’t lavish worship on Jesus you probably won’t have too much to offer the poor or anyone else. Are you a Mary or a disciple?
Notice how Jesus attached the good work of Mary to the preaching of the gospel. How are they connected? They are connected at the heart. What Mary did is an example of how everyone should come to Jesus. She symbolized in a very worshipful and real way that she was giving her all to Jesus. That’s really what God is looking for when the gospel is preached. I received Jesus as my Savior over 35 years ago with the words that can be summed up as “Jesus, I’m Yours.” My wife likes to say of people who struggle with their relationship with Jesus, “They just have to fall in love with Jesus.” That’s what Mary’s lavish act of worship communicated. She was totally in love with her Lord Jesus. She was wholly holy to Him. Are you?
What does your life speak to Jesus? Are you more like the disciples who scorned and looked down on lavish expressions of love to Jesus? Are you very practical; so practical that you’d never think of condoning such a lavish expenditure of funds, not even on Jesus? Remember, “You are not your own . . . For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Remember, “you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your sinless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Maybe as Mary and the disciples ate the Passover meal together that fateful night, it all came together for her. Maybe she realized what Jesus said of her act – “She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial” (Mark 14:8).
Do you know that Resurrection Sunday is only 11 weeks away? It will be here before you know it. Let's begin preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus early this year. This season of the crucifixion and resurrection why not pray about a lavish expression of your life for Jesus? Ask the Lord how you could show your love for Him in a costly lavish way like Mary did. Ask Him how you can follow in her steps and do a similar good work. Ask Him.