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. Mark 14, verse 3.
Has something extraordinary ever happened to you?
There are a number of extraordinary things happening in just this one verse. Jesus and His disciples are relaxing. That’s extraordinary when you consider that they have come to Jerusalem with the intention of watching Jesus die (even as the Disciples don’t yet fully grasp that fact). In the middle of the week, they are relaxing, not obsessing or fussing or trying to find ways to avert this gruesome fate.
And they are relaxing with a man known to be a leper. Have you ever seen someone with leprosy? In the West, it’s not common anymore; antibiotics have largely eradicated it. Yet it’s enormously disfiguring. I remember seeing a leper when I was a boy in Pennsylvania. He was a regular at a small diner where we frequently ate. He had all the grotesque skin growths and lesions, and I remember being fascinated by him. When I finally got up the courage to say hello, I found he was a friendly man. Perhaps he was like Simon the Leper. We don’t know much about Simon, whose name may have been Simon, Gamaliel, or even Lazarus (brother of Mary and Martha). What we do know is that, if he was a leper, then he had been a persecuted outcast from society because that’s what happened to lepers in ancient times. Leprosy was a fearsome, deadly disease at the time when so little was understood about biotics and hygiene. Is it any wonder that people would react in fear? Yet here is Jesus and His group of close friends eating dinner with him, sharing bread and dipping in the same bowls, sharing cups, and sitting in close quarters with this leprous man. Extraordinary.
And there is the account of the woman who poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. Expensive perfume (or nard) would have cost many months’ wages for a typical woman of first century Judea. Such perfume was difficult to make and rare to find, yet here is this poor woman (it might have been Jesus’ friend, Mary) breaking an expensive jar and pouring priceless oil over Jesus’ head. Reading further in the story we learn how Jesus says it is in preparation for His passion and burial. It’s also an extraordinary story of one woman’s intense personal devotion to Jesus and her faith in the fact that He was God Immanuel. She knew Him; she had seen Him; she believed in Him.
While it’s extraordinary – unusual, maybe even shocking – that an ordinary woman would do such a thing for this Nazarene rabbi, perhaps the most extraordinary thing that happened in the verse is that she displayed faith. The faith wasn’t about her: it was about Jesus. It was about putting her hope for salvation and all the trust in her soul into Jesus and Jesus alone. The more you think about it, that’s the most extraordinary thing of all.
So has something extraordinary like that ever happened to you? And have you put your whole faith in the extraordinary Man from Galilee?
Lord, I put all my faith in You and you alone. Help me to live an extraordinary life in Your service.
Read Mark 14, verses 1-11.