The Infinite yet Approachable God-Man
It is Wednesday of Holy Week. Sunday is coming.
And while [Jesus] was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman [Mary, the sister of Martha] came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:3-9
Just days before His death, Jesus was the recipient of a gift. Mark 14:3-9 records that Mary anointed His head with costly* ointment. However, Mary soon became an object of scorn. Her act was seen by some disciples as wasteful.
Question: What did Mary see in Jesus that would lead to such an offering, while others scoffed at her “wastefulness”?
Last Sunday, Pastor Mike shared (check out the sermon here) the infinite value of Christ as described in Hebrews 1:1-4. Who is this Jesus whom Mary anointed?
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. -Hebrews 1:1–4
Jesus is the Heir of all things. (Hebrews 1:2)
The One Mary anointed is the Heir of all. The future points to Jesus, who will one day be acknowledged across space and time, and among every people and language, as Lord of all (Philippians 2:10-11). How then could Mary’s offering be a waste? If anything, first century A.D. Pure nard ointment seems to be an inadequate offering for the Heir who deserves all things.
Yet, the Heir came to Mary in sympathetic flesh (Hebrews 4:15). The Heir became accessible to humanity, so Mary could offer what she could to the person of Christ. She approached Jesus, falling at His smelly feet. She stood and raised the flask over her Lord’s head, drenching His figure in an offering of worship. How wonderful! The truly human Christ actually received her gift, calling it, “beautiful”? What grace and kindness!
Jesus is the Agent of the world’s creation. (Hebrews 1:2)
Mary, and all humanity, are the very handiwork and possession of God through Christ. Therefore, our identity and purpose are intimately tied to the triune Creator God’s purposes.
Yet, Jesus became a creature to create (through torn body and shed blood) a reunion between His creation and the Creator. So, Mary’s offering was, to Jesus, a pre-burial ritual, pointing to His sacrificial payment for sin (1 John 2:2). The Agent of creation became flesh, dwelt with His creation, and would suffer a horrific death under a wrath destined for His creation. Mary’s offering worshiped Christ’s worth as the infinitely worthy sin payer.
Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. (Hebrews 1:3)
Mary’s forefather, Moses, could only look at God’s back to avoid instant death when enraptured with God’s presence. Even so, Moses’ face was changed to brightness by the glory of God (Exodus 34:29).
Yet, God in Christ stepped into flesh. He became utterly approachable, fully dressed in humanity. Mary could enter Jesus’ presence and honor His person. Her gift ran through Christ’s hair and beard, a fragrant act of worship. As Christ’s physical body made it possible for Mary to offer her gift (He was not a spirit), so also our offerings to God are possible through Christ’s sacrificed body (Romans 12:1-2).
Question: What did Mary see in Jesus that would lead to such an offering?
Answer: Mary saw that Jesus is worthy! He is the Heir of all, the Agent of creation, and the shining splendor of God. No gift is too costly for this Christ.
Yet, Jesus is more worthy. He embodies God’s unfailing love. He came in flesh and received Mary’s offering as His burial preparation, the burial of His body which would endure the weight of God’s punishment against our sin.
Challenge: Today prayerfully consider both the infinite value of Christ and the humility of Christ, and ask God to lift up your heart in worship to Him.
*There are estimates that a flask of pure nard would cost up to one year’s salary in the first century A.D.