My King Forever

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“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” – John 12:5

It is impossible for us to over-value Jesus Christ. We cannot overestimate his worth or give him too much of ourselves. Bring your best, bring your all, and you still will not have overpaid. None in heaven — even the martyrs — will be looking for change back from all they invested on earth. 


But did Jesus think of himself that way? Was he audacious enough to demand that kind of time and attention? Of the many places we might turn to hear Jesus’s clear teaching about Jesus, an incident with perfume illustrates Scripture’s testimony well.

Awful Waste or Fitting Praise?

Just days from his death, Jesus arrives at the home of Lazarus — a man he had just miraculously raised from the dead (John 11:40–44). Fresh from the tomb, Lazarus, along with his sisters, Martha and Mary, held a dinner party for the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25). 

Martha, as the woman of the house, busies herself with hosting. Lazarus, along with others, reclined with Jesus at table. During such special meals in Jewish culture, those “reclining at table” would essentially lie down with their head toward the table, resting on one elbow and eating with the other hand. So as Jesus ate with the others, feet exposed, Mary came and anointed his feet with pure nard and wiped it off with her hair. The sweet fragrance quickly filled the room, drawing attention to the humble (and costly) act of devotion. 

Upon Jesus’s feet, she poured a year’s wage. Let’s say, for a modern comparison, sixty thousand dollars’ worth of perfume. If you reclined next to Jesus, what would you have thought at such a pricey and passing gesture? 

As the smell became recognized, the quantity observed, the inner calculations made, Judas said what others only thought: “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). Mary, we get it, he raised your brother from the dead and you’re thankful. But a whole year’s wages poured into a puddle on the floor seems rather wasteful. The money could have been used for better purposes. Think of how many people that money could have fed and clothed. 

Now John gives us a window into Judas’s rotten motive: “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6). But would you not have silently nodded? 

My Whole Life Down

All eyes turn to Jesus as the red stain of embarrassment might have mounted Mary’s cheek. What would the Master say? Could one rebottle and sell used nard? Jesus’s response answers our question, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me” (John 12:7–8).

Leave her alone. The poor you will always have with you, but not me. No one has a deeper compassion for the widow and fatherless, and yet Jesus considers how they might have been helped by this money and says in no uncertain terms: I am worth it. I am heading to my death soon. You will have plenty of opportunities to bless and serve the poor.

And so when we sing (and live in accordance with) the lyrics, “I lift my hands up, lay my whole life down before you,” worldly people and evil disciples might say, “Such a radical life, such costly devotion, could have been better spent elsewhere.” To which Jesus responds, “Leave them alone, I am worth it.”

If These Were Silent

In the next chapter, a similar incident follows, with crowds gathering before this Jesus and worshipping him with palm branches, screaming, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13). When challenged for receiving such a reception, he does not apologize or quiet the crowd, but corrects his antagonists, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).

The point is clear enough: Jesus is worth our every act of devotion, our every praise, our very life — and more. If we did not praise him, rocks would. Consecrating our entire selves to his service is not going above and beyond, it is an offering far too small. Each of us must reckon with the fact that this glorious Savior — our King forever — is worth more than we can ever acknowledge and has done more than we can ever meet with our praise. What a glorious God.