During these last hours before His arrest, Jesus spent much time with His friends.  While His enemies contrive their plots, He was in Bethany, with a certain man called Simon the leper, probably somebody He had healed in days gone by.  We know that He had other friends in this village as well, the sisters Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, whom He had but recently raised from the dead.  Doubtless there was a large gathering present when the following events occurred.

In John’s gospel, we find that it was Martha who served this supper, and that Lazarus was present which might suggest that “Simon the leper” was a close friend or kinsman of their family; it could be he was even their father, and that this is why the house was called after his name.  Be that as it may, we know that Martha was serving the supper, and Mary, whose heart burned with strong affection for Christ, brought an alabaster box containing expensive ointment, and poured it on His head while He sat at the dinner table.  This was a token of great esteem and affection, and a not insignificant sacrifice, for the ointment with which she anointed the Lord was of great value.  The disciples took note of this, and complained that she would have done better to give it to the poor.  John tells us that Judas was the most vocal complainer, because he was a thieving hypocrite, who somehow wanted to get in on whatever profit could have been made.  Judas aside, I am certain the disciples meant well in their complaints.  No doubt they had very much taken to heart Christ’s constant urging to tend to the needs of the poor.  What they did not yet understand is that some things are of even greater importance than caring for the poor, one of them being the worship and honoring of the Son of God.

Mary must have been considerably embarrassed to be the butt of so many complaints when she had meant so well, but her heart was quickly relieved when the Lord came to her defense.  He immediately silenced the disciples, forbidding them to trouble her farther, and commending the good work she had done.  Our blessed Lord delights in the praises and adoration of His people, and He willingly reciprocates the love which we direct towards Him.  This woman had wrought a good work upon Him, sacrificing a valuable material possession to do Him honor, and show that, whatever others might think, she prized Jesus Christ more highly than any other person.  Christ strongly commends her devotion, telling His disciples that there would always be opportunity to care for the poor, but that opportunities to do honor to Him were quickly fleeting.  This He hints by saying that the woman did it for His burial.  I am not certain whether He indicates that Mary had actually comprehended that He would soon be crucified and buried, or if this was simply the unintended effect of her anointing.  Whatever the extend of her knowledge, it was a selfless act of devotion and worship towards the Lord Christ, Who deserves the highest honors His blood-bought people can heap upon Him.  Because of this one act, Jesus told His astonished listeners, the name of Mary, sister to Martha and Lazarus, would be spoken of wherever the Gospel was preached across the face of the globe.  And so it continues to be until this very day.