I know the perfume my sweetheart wears. I can be a thousand miles away, but when I smell that fragrance I think of her. My mind is flooded with wonderful memories and pleasant thoughts. In the words of Rudyard Kipling: "Smells are surer than sounds or sights to make your heartstrings crack."
Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume. Our text says the fragrance filled the room. I dare say those gathered in that room associated forever its powerful scent with that wonderful scene. Henceforth, whenever they smelled that memorable fragrance they reminisced about Mary, and her devotion to Jesus in those last days before His death.
It was a few days before Jesus' death. He was in Bethany, just east of Jerusalem. There was a dinner in the home of Simon. Guests included Mary, Martha, Lazarus and, of course, Jesus. While they were eating, Mary entered the room, broke open a bottle of expensive perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus.
Judas criticized Mary for wasting the perfume. "Why was not this ointment sold," he asked, "and the money given to the poor?" Jesus defended her. "She has anointed me for my burial. The poor you always have with you."
Matthew then records these words: "Truly, I say to you, whenever this gospel is preached to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."
Mary knew Jesus was close to death. Was it a woman's intuition? Was it the leadership of the Holy Spirit? Perhaps Mary had listened as Jesus spoke to His followers of His coming death. Perhaps she accepted it while others ignored it. Mary knew she had but a few days left to express her love.
Before someone dies there is that last opportunity to give a gift, to write a letter, to forgive a wrong, to speak of love, to recall the past. Such opportunities must be seized or regret settles in for a long stay.
A friend called me some years ago. His spouse was suffering symptoms of a deadly disease. The words spoken to me were these: "Pastor, I have learned again how precious each day is. We do things now that we used to do when we were newlyweds, when everybody thinks you're crazy."
Yes, they thought Mary was crazy that day. They told her so. But she recognized the opportunity and acted. It was a question of timing, when all the factors were just right -- a few days before His death, a dinner in the house of a friend, the devotion of her own soul, a flask of choice perfume. The time was right!
How important timing is! Consider the launch of a space shuttle, when all variables must be precisely right. Or an eclipse of the sun, or the conception of a baby. In these common things, and in the things of God, timing is everything.
Does not Scripture say, "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near"? A warning is repeated often in the Bible: "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart." Why?
Tomorrow the opportunity may be gone. His will may not seem so clear. His voice may grow dim. Your desire to please Him may be lost in the cares of the world. Your resources and talents may be dissipated in the various and sundry pursuits of life. Mary seized her opportunity. She broke the flask and emptied its liquid upon the feet of Jesus.