For those who tuned in yesterday morning, you will recall the beautiful account of a woman (Mary, according to John 12:1–8) pouring all of her expensive perfume on Jesus, two days before his death (Mark 14:1–11). Jesus commended her for her act of lavish love, for her extravagant expression of devotion. In a very tangible sense, whether she realised it or not, Mary was encouraging Jesus during the final hours of his ministry, which would culminate on the cross. But as someone has quipped, no good deed goes unpunished. And in this case, the disciples, with Judas as the spokesman (John 12:4), verbally scolded her: “Why was the ointment wasted like that?” (Mark 14:4–5). Judas knew the monetary value of the perfume and, apparently, he didn’t think Jesus was worth it. “Maybe thirty pieces of silver, but not 300 denarii.” Somebody needed a values adjustment. And that somebody probably includes you and me.
A church member yesterday messaged me: “Sad how we are so quick to see ourselves as Mary but, in reality, we are just like the disciples. Pray that God will make us more like Mary.” Amen. So, let me prod, before challenging us to pray: What do we most value in life, and are we evaluating in the light of what God values? It seems that, in these trying days, our Lord is giving us an opportunity for self-examination; an opportunity to repent and to re-evaluate. By his grace, we just might come out of this like Mary, rather than like the disciples or, worse, like Judas.
Commenting on Judas’ response, Kent Hughes writes, “Judas was a man who knew the price of everything but the value of nothing.” That is both insightful and convicting.
Judas was apparently well versed in the commodity market of the Indian fragrance nard. Perhaps that very morning Judas’ broker informed him, “The current trading value of an alabaster jar of nard is priced at 300 denarii, a year’s wage for a labourer. The futures index is looking positive and, if an investor is patient, in a few days nard’s value may climb by another 10%.” With such financial value, and as Jesus’ treasurer—a treasurer who used to help himself to what was put into the account (John 12:6)—Judas knew financial waste when he saw it. That is, if he was not the beneficiary, then, regardless of how it was spent, he assessed such an expenditure as waste. And in this case, the otherwise profitable perfume literally evaporated before his eyes—and before his nose—as it was poured on Jesus’ head.
Judas devalued Jesus because he over-valued himself. His wicked and wrongheaded value assessment would cost him everything, including the thirty coins he received for bartering Jesus. Those coins would merely secure his own burial plot (Matthew 27:3–10). For a time, he saved his life but, very shortly, he lost it.
Let’s learn from this to rightly and highly esteem the Lord Jesus Christ. As we begin a new work and school week, pray that we will be like Mary. Pray that we will set our affection on things above, rather than on things on the earth (Colossians 3:1–3). Let’s practically pursue a lavish love for our Lord Jesus Christ amidst a culture that just doesn’t get it. Who knows: Perhaps the aroma of our sacrifice to Christ will be a means towards others re-evaluating how they see him. Perhaps our heavenly perspective will show others the folly of their temporal and bankrupt values. Perhaps the Lord will use our “wastefulness” to deliver others from theirs.
Perfuming with you,