Christian Living Stories: Mary Sister of Lazarus

Matthew 26:6-10; Mark 14:3-10; John 12:1-7

I stood silently in the doorway of the common room where a special meal was being served in honor of Jesus. The conversation at the table was animated. Everyone was still celebrating the astounding resurrection of my brother, Lazarus.

I was waiting for the right moment to anoint Jesus with costly spikenard. I had carefully planned this for days, because on several occasions Jesus had confided in us that he was going to die a gruesome death by crucifixion. No one really believed him, but I did, and I was deeply affected and disturbed.

Finally, the time seemed right. It wasn’t easy to enter a room full of men. My heart was pounding as I timidly approached Jesus. First one guest, then another looked up at me. I broke the neck of the alabaster jar on the stone floor. The sound reverberated through the house. The fragrance of perfume filled the air. I poured the spikenard on Jesus’ head. Everyone looked at Jesus’ face to see his reaction. He just closed his eyes, as his travel-weary and fatigued expression began to melt away.

Then I emptied the last of the luxurious ointment, every drop in the jar, on his feet. I untied my hair and used it to gently dry each foot. It was as though Jesus and I were the only two people in the room.

But I was rudely jerked back to reality by the voice of Judas, who indignantly complained about the waste of expensive perfume, insisting that I should have used the money instead to help the poor. Then some of the other men joined in and harshly rebuked and criticized me.

My heart sank. There I was in the presence of men with my hair untied. I had interrupted their meal. I felt so foolish having spent all that money on spikenard. I began to cry. Huge teardrops fell on Jesus’ feet and I awkwardly tried to wipe them off with my hair.

Overwhelmed with shame and embarrassment, I was about to run out of the room when I heard Jesus say, “Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her? She has done such a beautiful thing to me.” And in front of all those men he said the poor would always be among us, but he would not always be there. He said the perfume was used appropriately — to prepare him for his burial. And then he said: “You can be sure wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

I was speechless. Jesus not only understood what I was trying to do, he had also praised my act of love. I glanced over at Judas and his face was flush with resentment. He got up and left. Later I learned he had gone to the religious leaders and arranged to betray Jesus. Days later, my heart was broken and I wept bitter tears as Jesus was tortured and crucified. But my sorrow was soon turned to the greatest joy when he was raised again to life and I saw him and spoke with him.

Now, whenever I look back on that special meal and remember Jesus’ words and the kindness in his voice, I am so glad that I followed my heart and poured out my adoration on our Lord, giving him solace and easing his fears as he faced the horror and desolation of the cross.

Copyright 2006

Author: Joyce Catherwood


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