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The Rich Young Woman

Read Mark 14:1-11

If you owned a $30,000 bottle of perfume, what would you do with it? One woman who owned such an item chose to break it open and pour all of its contents on the head of a man while he sat waiting for dinner to be served. The man was Jesus and Mark does not tell us the name of the woman, but John’s Gospel reveals that this was Mary, Lazarus’s sister (John 11:2; 12:3).

Why did Mary own such an expensive bottle of perfume in the first place? It’s possible that this was something she had inherited which had been passed down to her through several generations, which would account for its great value. If so, then she not only destroys an incredibly valuable possession, but she also sacrifices a precious family heirloom. What could cause you to give up something that’s incredibly valuable and has been in your family for generations?

The onlookers did not approve of Mary’s actions. They recognize the value of the item, appraising it on the spot as worth “more than three hundred denarii” (Mark 14:5), suggesting that a more appropriate usage of such an item would be to sell it and give the proceeds to the poor. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus had commanded one rich young ruler to do with all of his possessions (Mark 10:21)? Yet, here Jesus says the disciples are wrong for insisting that this woman do what Jesus had commanded the rich young ruler to do.

Jesus recognizes a deeper significance to the action of Mary, probably even deeper than Mary herself realized. Jesus called this “a beautiful thing,” noting that she had “anointed my body beforehand for burial” (Mark 14:6, 8), which was probably not her intent. Mary simply wanted to express her extravagant love for and devotion to Jesus. Nothing was too valuable to give up for him; nothing was too precious to give over to him. He’s worth everything.

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