“Let each one give as he purposes in his heart,” the apostle Paul directs in 2 Corinthians 9:7a, “not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” But a story about American industrialist Henry Ford reminds us some people have to be strong-armed into giving. Ford was once asked to donate money for the construction of a new medical facility. The billionaire pledged to donate $5,000. The next day in the newspaper, the headline read, “Henry Ford contributes $50,000 to the local hospital.” The irate Ford was on the phone immediately to complain to the fund-raiser that he had been misunderstood. The fund-raiser replied that they would print a retraction in the paper the following day to read, “Henry Ford reduces his donation by $45,000.” Realizing the poor publicity that would result, the industrialist agreed to the $50,000 contribution in return for the following – that above the entrance to the hospital was to be carved the Bible-related thought: “I came among you and you took me in.” (Bits and Pieces, 3/93, p 23)
John 12:1-8 describes a lavish, sacrificial gift given to Jesus at a supper in His honor only a few days before He was crucified. Verses 1 and 2 relate that “six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany …. where they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him” [that is, Jesus]. Verse 3 goes on – “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” Sadly, over against the beautiful fragrance of that sweet perfume and ungrudging generosity of Mary’s extravagant gift is the foul odor of greed and hypocrisy in verses 4-5 – “But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not given to the poor?’ ” John exposes Judas’s feigned concern for the poor with this blunt indictment in verse 6 – “This he said, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” The Lord goes on in verses 7 and 8 to note that Mary’s actions reveal her deeper understand- ing of what would happen to Jesus a few days later when He would demonstrate an unparalleled love at the cross for all people, including Judas! Most commentators believe the Mary in this passage is the same unnamed woman and incident recorded in Matthew 26:6ff and Mark 14:3-9. Jesus said in Matthew 26:13 and Mark 14:9 what she had done would never be forgotten!
Focus on the statement in the last part of verse 3 – “and the house was filled the fragrance of the oil.” Strong’s Concordance says the Greek word for “filled” is “plaroo” [pronounced ‘play-ro’-o’], and means “to make replete, literally to cram.” Such was the strength of the pungent smell that it wafted through the whole house where they were until it “filled” the house. Mary was practicing some ancient aroma therapy that evening – every nose in the house could smell it and was affected by it! What others in the room smelled that evening was oil spikenard, but Jesus smelled something else. He smelled the fragrance of a deep, sacrificial love that mirrored the love He Himself was preparing to show later that week – a love that in the apostle Paul’s words at Romans 5:8 “demonstrates His [God’s] own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Mary spared no expense to show her love for Jesus. God spares no expense, including the gift of His only begotten Son, to save each of us from our sins! Can God smell your love?