She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. Mark 14:8-9
We naturally wonder if our actions on this earth are pleasing to God, though we understand our faith, rather than good works we do, is the key to salvation. Jesus’ response to Mary of Bethany’s anointing of His feet the day before He enters Jerusalem is provocative on a number of levels. However, her story parallels the passion of this Passion week:
Mary acts out of faith even when she confronts a painful reality. She acknowledges Jesus’ predictions of His death and burial. Mary believes what His disciples refuse to hear.
Jesus prays a few days later to have the reality of suffering lifted from Him, but in obedience, He perseveres out of faith and love for the Father.
Mary acts out of her steadfast love for the Master–she is showing single-minded devotion in the face of criticism from the disciples.
Jesus, on the cross, shows forgiveness and love even to the men who deride and execute Him.
Mary acts out of significant personal sacrifice–pouring costly perfume worth a full year’s wages–showing her commitment to Christ.
Jesus willingly gives the ultimate sacrifice of Himself–there is no higher price to pay.
Mary responds to His need–she recognizes that this moment is her opportunity to anoint the living Christ, and His response clearly shows He is deeply moved by her action.
Jesus, as man Himself, recognizes humanity’s need to be saved, and places Himself in our place. We must respond, incredulous, with gratitude.
Jesus tells Mary of Bethany (and us), in response to the disciples’ rebukes, that it is her action that will be told and remembered. She did what she could at that moment to ease His distress at what He would soon confront. She did what she could for Him–humbly, beautifully, simply, sacrificially–and He is so grateful that He Himself washes the feet of His disciples a few days later in a personal act of devotion and servanthood.
And today we remember this Mary as the harbinger of His suffering and death, just as He said we would.
She did what she could — as should we.