A Beautiful Thing commended by the Lord


Three of the four Gospels record the story of Jesus Christ being anointed with fragrant perfume by a woman in Bethany just before the feast of Passover (Matthew 26:1-16, Mark 14:1-11, John 11:55-12:11). The description of Christ’s anointment in Mark has its unique and detailed aspects. The composition of the passage has the Lord commending the woman for her act of offering at its center (v. 6). This is placed in between the evil deed of the chief priests and scribes plotting to capture and kill Christ (v. 1) and the foul deed of Judas contemplating to betray Him (v. 10-11) in order to highlight what the Lord praised as a beautiful thing. Matthew and Mark did not divulge the name of the woman. Perhaps these authors hoped people in the future would remember what the woman did, rather than the person, Mary. Jesus Christ wants everyone who preaches the Gospel throughout the world to tell of the act of this woman, in memory of her. We see how precious of a beautiful thing she had done.


Through the Lord’s commendation of the woman, we can recognize three points concerning what God sees as a beautiful thing:


  1. Doing what one can, and offering it with thanks: “She did what she could.” (v.8) In the tense atmosphere of that time when the powers in control wanted to capture and kill Jesus, Simon and Mary did not refuse to receive Him because of fear of the Jews. Simon invited the Lord and His disciples to a meal because Christ had healed his leprosy. Mary offered the perfume to the Lord during the feast because He had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead. They had both experienced the grace of the Lord and were giving thanks to Him at the same time. Jesus was especially appreciative of Mary because in her thanksgiving and response to the blessing, she focused on the Lord alone, held nothing back, and offered everything that she had. To a woman at that time, spikenard bought for the equivalent of a year’s wages was no small matter, yet she poured it all out for the love of the Lord.


  1. Truly knowing the Lord, and doing it for Him: “She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” (v. 8) Christ had long ago told the disciples that He would go up to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, be killed, and after three days, rise again (Mark 8:31). Although the disciples had followed Christ for many years and heard His many teachings and prophesies, they still did not know the Lord as much as this woman. For she had chosen the best blessing, and sat at the feet of the Lord to listen attentively to His instructions. Since she realized that He would soon be killed, she poured the perfume on Him beforehand. This shows her intelligence, and also indicates that she truly knew and valued what Jesus did, keeping His words in her heart.


  1. Taking the opportunity, and offering at the right time: “But you will not always have me.” (v. 7) This woman knew the will of salvation of the Father. He sent His beloved Son to earth to die in redemption for the sins of the people. Christ must also rise from the dead to reveal that He is the Lord of resurrection and life. Very soon after the work of salvation was completed, the Lord would return to the Father, and she would no longer see his face. Therefore, this woman seized the only opportunity she had during the festival that commemorates the salvation of God, to totally pour out the spikenard onto the lamb of God. This was so that in the grace of salvation of God, she might submit a bit of fragrant offering in thanksgiving to the benevolent Lord through her role as a sinner who was bestowed grace.


At this time of Thanksgiving, let us learn what a beautiful thing commended by God is, through the beautiful deed this woman did for the Lord.


By: Daniel To