Over the last handful of weeks I’ve been blogging on the topic of stewardship as seen through various chapters in the Book of Mark. I’ve hit on chapters 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and now…you guessed it…14.

Mark 14 has story about a woman that was at Simon the Leper’s house at the same time Jesus happened to be there. That would be a pretty serendipitous meeting! If I was her, I would have taken a photo for Instagram or posted it to Facebook“Look, it’s JESUS.”

But this wasn’t a photo-op moment. It was a time for worship and giving. And here’s how the Woman of Bethany did just that…

She broke the jar.

She poured the perfume.

Let me explain:

The Bible tells us that Jesus was reclining at the dinner table. This was a common posture for mealtime. Perhaps it was before the food was brought out or shortly after a lovely meal, but regardless, there was a moment of time in which the Woman of Bethany made her move. She grabbed a jar of her perfume and approached Jesus at the table. It wouldn’t have been proper to sneak up on him from behind, so most likely she drew close to his face in a posture of submission and reverence.

The woman then did something wonderfully scandalous. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. I have two initial responses:

First, I wonder if she smashed the jar over Jesus’ head. The answer is: of course she didn’t! This isn’t the World Wrestling Federation (which is unfortunate, because I LOVE wrestling!). Perhaps a better way to think of the jar breaking is that the seal was broken allowing the woman to pour it out freely.

Secondly, the thought of perfume being poured over my head sounds kinda gross.

Am I right or am I right?

Maybe it wouldn’t seem so odd if I told you the perfume is called nard. Oh, that doesn’t help? OK…well…sorry. Nard is short for spikenard which is one of the most precious spices of the Bible. The Hebrew for it is actually nerd (now that I understand). The Greeks called it nardos. It grew extensively in northern India, and has been found high in the Himalayan Mountains. It grows with many spikes on one root, bearing pink blossoms, so it’s sometimes called the Indian Spike. Perfumed oil is extracted from these spikes. Mark says a Venti of it (Starbucks terminology) costed about 300 denari, or about one average worker’s salary for one year (rough estimate today would be roughly $10,000).

Bottom line:  this is really good and expensive perfume. It’s the kind that you would pour over people’s heads. Especially, those dying or being prepared for burial. Hmmm. It’s interesting to note that this all happened two days before The Passover, which began on the evening of Jesus’ crucification! Wow!

The woman broke the jar and poured the perfume. She gave her best and her best cost her something. Others (such as Judas) mocked and rebuked her, but Jesus declared that she had done “a beautiful thing.”

This cost her something. It was expensive. It was expressive. It was passionate. It was voluntary.

How is your giving? Don’t give because you GOTTA. Give because you WANNA.


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