Summary: Mary's act of devotion was costly but it was worth the price because costly devotion gets recognized, it gets remembered and it gets rewarded.
1) Costly devotion is sacrificial (1-3). Weird word isn’t it-‘nard’. Doesn’t sound very expensive, does it? Sounds too close to lard. “Hey, honey, look what I bought for you; this perfume called Nard! I got you a whole pint of it!” As weird sounding as it is, nard was some pretty precious stuff. This expensive perfume was worth a year’s wages (5). Let that sink in for a moment. Sacrificing a whole year’s worth of your income. We’re not sure how this expensive perfume came to rest in Mary’s hands but however she had acquired it she was willing to sacrifice it in order to honor Jesus. She was honoring Jesus for bringing her brother back to life. She was honoring the friendship they shared. She was honoring her Savior. Sacrificing this expensive perfume was her way of showing Jesus that he was priceless to her. William Barclay’s commentary, “Mary took the most precious thing she possessed and spent it all on Jesus. Love is not love if it nicely calculates the cost. It gives its all and its only regret is that it has not still more to give.” In Matthew’s account of this event, it says that she anointed his head while here in John it says his feet. It’s not a contradiction it is an issue of emphasis. In John it mentioned the feet probably because of the surprising act of Mary wiping his feet with her hair. So I believe both the head and the feet were anointed by Mary. I mean, she did have a whole pint of this stuff. Anointing the head and the feet were symbolic. Anointing the head would’ve symbolized Mary recognizing him as king. Anointing the feet would’ve symbolized Mary recognizing herself as Jesus’ servant. This is indicative of those who exhibit costly devotion to Jesus. They have placed Jesus on the throne as king, as ruler of their lives and they have surrendered to his Lordship as his humble servant. Costly devotion is sacrificial.
2) Costly devotion won’t make sense to some (4-6). Judas complains that what Mary is doing is wasteful. To some, doing things for Jesus will be a waste-a waste of time and a waste of resources. Sometimes, at least in the beginning, costly devotion might not make sense to us either. I’m sure Mary was tempted to not make such a costly sacrifice. It’s true-if she had sold the perfume the money could’ve kept her family going for a while or it could’ve helped others. It made more sense from a practical standpoint to sell the perfume. And not that it’s wrong to think like this but there are times when doing the godly thing doesn’t necessarily mean doing the practical thing. It might not make practical sense, but it will make spiritual sense. We too will be tempted to talk ourselves out of costly devotion. God will test the level of our devotion to him. “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, I love you.” Then are you willing to turn down that job that requires you to work on Sundays? Are you willing to not spend money on that new thing and instead give it to me? Are you willing to end that immoral relationship? Are you willing to put me first? Are you willing to make a costly sacrifice in order to show your devotion to me? Along with this not making sense to Judas I think there was another factor here. Judas was not just upset that Mary did what she did he was also upset because it made him look bad. Judas’ angry response could very well have been prompted by guilt. Here he was, someone who was greedy and guilty of pilfering from the generosity of others, seeing an extreme act of selfless, costly devotion. He knew that he was just shown up in the worst way. His heart was the opposite of Mary’s and instead of being humble he became enraged, trying to paint Mary’s act in a negative light. William Barclay’s commentary says, “A warped mind brings a warped view of things; and, if we find ourselves becoming very critical of others and imputing unworthy motives to them, we should, for a moment, stop examining them and start examining ourselves.” Costly devotion won’t be accepted by some but don’t let that stop you from doing God’s will.