February 27, 2017 • Life for Leaders
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
In the days before his passion, Jesus took a break from teaching in the temple of Jerusalem in order to spend some time with his followers and friends in Bethany, which was a little more than a mile from Jerusalem. As he was eating, a strange and unexpected thing happened to Jesus: “[A] a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head” (Mark 14:3; in the version of this story in John 12:1-8, this woman is identified as Mary, the sister of Martha. Mark leaves her anonymous.)
The perfume used to anoint Jesus was made from “essence of nard.” “Nard” transliterates the Greek word nardos, which referred to a plant from far away Asia. Perfume made from this plant was rare and costly, worth what a laborer would make in an entire year, something like $20,000 in today’s terms. The perfume was stored in an alabaster jar (Greek, alabastron, a translucent mineral) so it would be preserved. The perfume with which the woman anointed Jesus was surely a family heirloom, something to be saved and prized, not used, and surely not poured out at one time.
Some who observed the anointing of Jesus by the woman objected that this was a huge waste of money. Had the jar been sold, it would have brought in a large sum to care for the poor (14:4-5). But Jesus defended the woman’s actions. Her sacrifice for him was costly indeed and absolutely appropriate. Not only was she expressing her deep love for Jesus, but, unknowingly, she was also preparing him for his burial (14:6-9).
As I reflect upon the fact that this woman gave her very best to Jesus, I wonder if I do the same. Do I offer to the Lord my best talents, my best time, and my deepest devotion? Does my love for Jesus cost me anything? Am I willing to give up my comfort? My security? My possessions? My selfish dreams? Do I give my best to Jesus in my daily work? With my family? In my community? In my church?
I would like to live each day in imitation of the woman in Mark 14, offering to Jesus my very best, not just in my morning devotions, but in all that I do, all day. How about you?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When have you given Jesus something costly? How did it feel to do this?
How might you offer Jesus your best today? What might this look like in your “real life,” at work, at home, in the local market, on the soccer field, etc.?
Lord Jesus, the example of this woman challenges me to consider my gifts for you. Do I give you my very best? Or do you get the leftovers of my time and talent? Am I so focused on doing the work of my life that I neglect to offer my work to you?
You deserve all that I have and all that I am. May I give you the best of my thoughts, my dreams, my time, my talents, my possessions, and my love. By your Spirit, help me to live each day as an offering to you, each moment for your glory. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Life, and Looming Death (John 10-12)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.