Mary took a pound of ointment of pure liquid nard [a rare perfume]
that was very expensive, and she poured it on Jesus' feet
and wiped them with her hair. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
John 12:3 (Amplified Bible)
The account of Mary's anointing of our Lord is found also in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9. But it must not be confused with the account given in Luke 7:36-50, where a former harlot anointed Jesus in the house of simon the Pharisee. Mary was a virtous woman, and she anointed Jesus in the house of Simon the (former) leper (Mark 14:3). The Luke 7 event took place in Galilee, while the account we are now considering occurred in Judea. The fact that there are two "Simons" involved should not surprise us, for Simon was a common name in that day.
When you combine all three accounts, you learn that Mary anointed both Jesus' head and His feet. It was an act of pure love on her part, for she knew her Lord was about to endure suffering and death. Because she sat at Jesus' feet [A Worshiper] and listened to Him speak, she knew what He was going to do.
In a sense, Mary was showing her devotion to Jesus before it was too late. She was "giving the rose" while He was yet alive, and not bringing them to the funeral! Her act of love and worship was public, spontaneous, sacrificial, lavish, personal, and unembarrassed. Jesus called it "a good work" (Matthew 26:10; Mark 14:6) and both commended her and defended her.
It would have required a year's wages from a common labourer to purchase that ointment. Like David, Mary would not give to the Lord that which cost her nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). Her beautiful act of worship brought a fragrance to the very house in which they were dinning, and the blessing of her deed has spread around the world (Matthew 26:13; Mark14:9). Little did Mary realize that night that her love for Christ would be a blessing to believers around the world for centries to come!
When she came to the feet of Jesus, Mary took place of a slave. When she undid her hair (something Jewish women did not do in public), she humbled herself and laid her glory at His feet (see 1 Corinthians 11:15). Of course, she was misunderstood and criticized; but that is what usually happens when somebody gives her best to the Lord.
What Mary did was a blessing to Jesus and a blessing to her own life. She was also a blessing to the home, filling it with fragrance (see Philippians 4:18); and today, she is a blessing to the church around the world. Her one act of devotion in the little village of Bethany still sends "ripples of blessing."
As we look at this event, we see some "representative people" who are examples for us. Martha represents work as she served the dinner she had prepared for the Lord. This was just as much a "fragrance offering" as was Mary's ointment (see Hebrews 13:16). Mary represents worship, and Lazarus represents witness (John 11:19-11). People went to Bethany just to be able to see this man who had been raised from the dead! Lazarus' miraculous life was an effective witness for Jesus.
Actually, the Christian life ought to be a beautiful balance of worship, work, and witness (in the right order). This event must have brought special encouragement and strength to the Saviour's heart as He faced the demands of that last week before the Cross. we should examine our own hearts and homes to ask whether we are bringing joy to His heart by our worship, work, and witness.
(an extract from Be Alive by Warren W. Wiersbe)