Lesson Thirteen


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Memory Verse: Luke 6:37
Further Study: Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-16; Mark 14:3-11; The Desire of Ages, pp. 557-568; The Bible Story, vol 9, pp. 28-32

My eight-year-old grandson has suddenly become wise. While he still has days of play ahead of him, his ability to pretend is waning. My two-year-old grandson seems to have recently lost his ability to see something that isn’t what it really is—he’s more aware of details and reality. And my nine-month-old granddaughter isn’t that newborn curved into a “C” that just snuggles into your shoulder. I think we can recognize that what I’m describing is “growing up.” It’s what we want in our children, but at the same time there is a sense of wonder and pretending that would be nice for us to retain as adults.

If one carefully reads the story of Mary anointing Jesus, we learn a bit more about her that suggests that she had learned to retain some of the childlike attributes that we should try more to emulate. There was a simplicity in her understanding and actions in her love for Jesus that made an impact in ways we might never do if we simply kept our adult perspective.

Enjoy a story. Notice that in this latest event in Mary’s life she is exactly where she was when we read about her before. Martha is serving (again). Lazarus is reclining at the table with the other men and Jesus. Where is Mary? Sitting at the feet of Jesus (again). She didn’t want to miss a word of what He said and the best place for that was directly at His feet.

She didn’t want to miss a word of what He said and the best place for that was directly at His feet.

Experience childlike trust. Jesus had been talking about His death for some time. At this point, He knew that within the week He would be crucified, but while He continued to warn those closest to Him, no one understood and in their “adultness,” they dismissed it. Mary didn’t. Jesus said He was going to die, she believed Him, and she was incredibly sad. Based on her trust and acceptance of His words, she purchased an expensive perfume for His burial. She was prepared.

Express yourself impulsively. Sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to the conversation around the table, she heard important and wise people say that Jesus would be King. As Mary listened, her sadness turned to joy! Her childlike heart believed. Jesus wasn’t going to die, but He would be King! Jumping up, she ran home, grabbed the perfume meant for His burial, returned, and in joy anointed Him as King! She poured it on His head, she spilled it on His robes, she poured it on His feet, all in absolute joy and abandon while wiping with her hair and crying tears of relief and joy.

Give gifts that last. Sometimes the best gifts are the simple ones. Who of us hasn’t kept the crayon-scribbled card impulsively made one afternoon covered in hearts (or dinosaurs) and “I love you”? Mary’s gift wasn’t simple in cost—in that she gave all she had, but she did give a gift that couldn’t be forgotten. In her impulsiveness, she didn’t remember that perfume can’t be hidden. The aroma filled the room, and everyone noticed. This wasn’t a silent tribute, but a full-blown announcement. But here’s where the gift made a difference. Bathing wasn’t an everyday occurrence in those days. The nard poured on Jesus would linger for days. As He sweat and agonized through the crucifixion experience, Mary’s gesture remained. Her simple gift of impulsive love enveloped Him as a constant reminder of her love.

Her simple gift of impulsive love enveloped Him as a constant reminder of her love. 

Growing up is something we all must do but let us recognize within our children are traits that we should cultivate for ourselves. Let us remember to trust, love, and act in childlike faith, like Mary, and when we do, we will be renewed.

Digging Deeper 

Exactly what did Mary pour on Jesus? Nard was a rare spice imported from India. Historical accounts describe its smell to be like gladiolus. This probably doesn’t mean the ones that grow in a United States garden, but a smaller variety whose smell is described as clove, almond, or honeysuckle. Nard in Mary’s day was described as red in color.

She apparently purchased one pound, which would be a large amount and extremely expensive. It was valued per the Bible as being worth one day’s wage for a day-laborer or approximately 300 denarii. This assumes that a day’s wage is one denarius. According to one commentator, if we assumed today’s minimum wage of $15 per hour, one denarius would equal $15 times 8 hours work or $120. So, Mary’s perfume would be assessed at today’s equivalent of $36,000! I did a quick google search of the most expensive perfumes in 2023, and the top choice was $7,700 but it included a container decorated with crystals.

Where Mary got the money to purchase the perfume we do not know, but we know it was a sacrificial gift from her heart.  

Making it Real

Do you have any perfume in the house? If so, bring it out while you tell the story of Mary for family worship. Dab some perfume on each person in the room (neck or wrist)—yes, dads and brothers as well. Wear the perfume all day long and at dinner that evening ask how many times they smelled the perfume and what it reminded them of. Then talk about how Mary’s gift was one that would have helped Jesus in His final hours.

No perfume? How about a candle? Or do you make bread? What can you do this week to make lasting smells that permeate your home? Think about how important smell is to memory. Talk or think about what smells remind you of something that happened in your past.



Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being a grandmother to two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus, and a granddaughter, who’s delighting everyone with her smiles. She is blessed to have all three living close by, continually bringing joy and delight.


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