John 12:3 – Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (NASB)
As a young adult who was fond of long hair, I noticed that, with few exceptions, many female movie stars had shortened hair styles. I recall the 1970 movie, Love story: Actress Ali MacGraw revived the trend of long hair in the film industry. The image of "Love story" finally arrived in my life when I met my future wife, who had long, dark hair that extended to her waist.
As I read today's passage in John, I recognized a different kind of love story, that of Mary of Bethany. I immediately became intrigued not only by her hair but also by her actions. In researching Jewish customs during the first century, I discovered that many women of status had their hair braided and covered, as opposed to peasant women who roamed the streets. Accordingly, the apostle Paul validates long hair by saying:
1 Corinthians 11:14-15 – Does not even nature itself teach you that … if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her for a covering. (NASB)
However, Mary does something very unusual as a virtuous woman. She did not think it a disgrace to undo her hair and anoint the feet of Jesus with a very costly perfume. In humility, she then wiped away the nard with her hair. She figuratively laid down her glory at the feet of Jesus as an act of reverence, devotion, service, and even worship — something that no one else thought of doing. When Jesus said, "She has kept this for the day of My burial" (John 12:7 NKJV), He indicated that Mary had a clearer recognition and understanding of the Lord's approaching death than the disciples. It wasn't until after Jesus was glorified that they actually understood.
Mary gave of herself. As Christians, we should also offer the very best of ourselves in order to obtain spiritual fulfillment. Even though Jesus is not physically present, consider the many ways in which we may worship and serve Him. Do people see us as a blessing to others through our actions and self-sacrificing love?
Mark 14:9 – [Jesus said,] "Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her." (NASB)
Christ recognized Mary's self-sacrificing act as a sign of adoration and love for Him. As a result, He honoured her, not only for future generations to remember, but also as an example for us to follow.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we worship You, and give You honour and glory. We pray that Mary's example will inspire us to give our hearts in faith, love, and service. Keep us ever so humble in Your sight. May we never forget the sacrifice which Your Son bore for us by Your grace. In His name, we pray. Amen.
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