The devotion of a brave woman

This reflection on Mark 14:3-9 considers the worship displayed by a brave woman.

 Mark 14:3-9

3While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.

6But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

New Revised Standard Version


In this passage we come across an extraordinary scene. Jesus is having a meal with his friends at Simon the Leper’s house. Unexpectedly to all who were there, a woman came over to Jesus. She is unnamed in Mark, but is likely to be the Mary named in John’s account. Mary was a close follower of Jesus, having had her life set free and restored by him (see Mark 16:9). She went up to Jesus and broke open a jar of perfume. It was extremely expensive, worth over 300 denarii – the equivalent of an average worker’s annual wages. Mary took the contents of the whole jar, not sparing any, and poured it over Jesus’ head.

Can you imagine giving so much in your worship?

The people Jesus was with reacted in anger. They said she had wasted the perfume because the money could have been given to the poor. The people judging Mary’s action as wasteful could not see the full picture, for it could be said that Mary’s action had been for the poor – Jesus who was going to be stripped of everything, rejected by society and given over to death.

Mary, a woman who had experienced restoration through the power and love of Christ, brought an extravagant and costly act of worship to him; costly in terms of finance and reputation.

Jesus publicly affirms Mary’s action by rebuking the onlookers for their remarks, and he honours her by telling them that it is her story that will remembered with the passing on of the good news. Her act was not only one of love but of bravery, risking much in order to express her worship.


You are worthy of our adoration.
We offer ourselves to you as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to you.
We affirm the brave acts of the righteous and stand up against the corrupt acts of the unjust
For your honour and glory.