Enjoying the Journey has many friends in the ministry who help and encourage us along the way. John Buckner is a real student of God’s Word. He has spent the last several years in Jerusalem completing a Master’s degree in Classical Hebrew and has dedicated His life to the study of God’s Word. We are happy to provide you with this article written by him. One of our goals is to provide resources to encourage and equip God’s people to serve Him; we believe this article will challenge you today.

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          As we approach Christmas, our thoughts naturally turn to gifts. Jesus received His last gift in the final days before the cross. It happened as He sat in a friend’s house in Bethany on the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem. (Mark 14:1-9) A woman named Mary came and poured spikenard on His head. Something about the event angered onlookers. However, Jesus commanded them to leave her alone, and instead, He praised her. He said that she came to anoint Him beforehand for burial and that her act would be recalled whenever the Gospel was preached.

         A little consideration of the spikenard plant teaches us something extraordinary about this gift that Mary gave. The ancient naturalist Theophrastus called spikenard the “queen of all perfumes,” due to how long it would last on someone’s skin. Sometimes it would last for several days or even a week. As a strong base note, a few drops would have been enough, but she used the whole bottle.

         A few hours after Mary anointed Him, He passed through the trying days of His arrest, torture, and crucifixion. The amazing thing is that Mary’s gift would have gone with Him to places she herself could not go. After the Last Supper, Jesus gave His disciples a final lesson in humility. The Bible says He took off His clothing, wrapped Himself in a towel, and washed their feet. However, He would have still had Mary’s perfume hanging in the air about Him as He taught them how to be great. Later, when Judas came to kiss our Savior at Gethsemane, he too would have smelled the heady, earthen scent of spikenard coming from Jesus’ hair. When the soldiers began to mock Jesus ritually, they stripped everything from Him. Everything except Mary’s gift. When your face is covered, it concentrates the scents on your skin in your nostrils. When they covered His face and struck Him, her gift no doubt brought Him comfort. As the blows rained down, I am sure He remembered the words of the Song of Solomon, where spikenard is a sign of love, a symbol of longing for what should be, and hope for what is to come. Perhaps the Roman soldiers noticed the last lingering traces of the perfume as they pounded the nails into His hands and feet. I am sure Jesus noticed.

         It is easy to look at a gift and say as the onlookers did to Mary: “what a waste. That could have been put to better use.” However, we don’t know when our gift will go places we cannot go. Mary could not go with Jesus to the judgment hall, to the cross, or to the tomb. But her gift did. Her gift was extravagant and expensive. I am sure that if we were to ask her, she would say “He is worth it.” A simple act of love comforted God’s Son incarnate as He suffered in our place. So, give to Jesus for you do not know where He may carry your gift.

– John Buckner. Jerusalem. Dec 15, 2022.

(John has written many such articles based upon research on fragrances of the Bible. For more helpful resources, you may contact him at: Johnpbuckner@hotmail.com