While Jesus was reclining at a table a woman came, broke a jar of expensive perfume and poured it out on Jesus’ head (Mk 14:3). In love she acted spontaneously and, though probably unknowingly, she anointed Jesus for his imminent death. This was an act of extravagant devotion beyond any necessary benefit to Jesus. Therefore the others rebuked her harshly thinking the perfume should have been sold for a year’s wages to help the poor (Mk 14:4-5). They thought pouring such a valuable amount of perfume on Jesus was a waste, particularly when it could have been used to help the poor.
Jesus told them to leave her alone. He went on to say that the poor would always be with them so they could help them whenever they wanted. But, they wouldn’t always have Jesus with them (14:7) and therefore she had done a ‘beautiful thing’. Whether she knew it or not she had poured perfume on Jesus in preparation for his burial. None of the disciples seemed to realize that Jesus was really going to die just as he had been telling them. Jesus honors her by saying that her beautiful act would be told in her memory wherever the gospel would be preached throughout the world (Mk 14:9).
This extravagance along with Jesus’ clear statement of his pending death was too much for Judas. For Judas it time to cut his losses and salvage what he could monetarily by betraying Jesus. This delighted the chief priests who were more than happy to pay to get rid of Jesus. After this Judas looked for an opportunity to turn Jesus over to the chief priests (Mk 14:10-11). The story contrasts the woman, Mary (see John 12), and her devotion to Jesus with Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. As we reflect on it we must ask ourselves who it is that we are really serving and if we are ready to give our all to honor Jesus.