Hebrews 11 is known as the “Faith Hall of Fame”. The author of Hebrews details many amazing men and women who led lives that were obedient to God. As I was reading this chapter, I was struck by how many times the Bible says “By faith…” and then names a person and describes how they acted in faith. For example, verse 17 says, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.” As I read through the verses, the pattern was clear. It was by faith that each person did something very difficult, something that required them to make an important sacrifice, go against powerful enemies, or look foolish to those around them. Their faith cost them something.
Though this list is limited to Old Testament heroes of the faith, another person from the Bible who popped into my mind as I was reading it was Mary, Lazarus’ sister. The gospel of John records the story of Mary anointing Jesus in Bethany six days before the passover. A dinner was being hosted in honor of Jesus and he was reclining at the table. Mary then came over with her alabaster jar, broke it, and poured the expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. The Bible says it was worth an entire year’s wages (John 12:5)! According to an article by John Piper (found here), it would have been the equivalent to a perfume that cost $25,000. One website said that this may have been Mary’s dowry, her inheritance, all she had. In a beautiful act of faith and love, Mary gave up everything, literally at the feet of Jesus.
I have to wonder, did she hold onto it and debate it before she broke the jar? Was she indecisive? Did she spend a lot of time counting the cost? Or did she just love Jesus so much that the loss of her dowry seemed insignificant compared to her Lord?
The immediate reactions of the others around her were those of shock and anger. John 12:5 says that Judas objected to her actions. He was focused on the monetary value of the nard that she poured on Jesus’ feet rather than the faith behind it. Thankfully, she had a Savior who knew her heart, and He intervened. Jesus said to Judas, “Leave her alone…. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial (v. 7).” Mary’s sacrifice was accepted and pleasing to Jesus, because she was following Him and His plan.
Mary gave all that she had to Jesus in faith, and it was costly. However, her actions in faith affected those around her. In the same John Piper article referenced above, Piper said, “And look at the whole room of people at this dinner. The end of verse 3, ‘The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.’ Heartfelt worship of King Jesus is never merely private. It always spills over onto others – one way or the other. The lavish, heartfelt, sacrificial, grateful display of affection was for Jesus. But everybody was blessed. Even Judas.”
Wow. Even Judas.
We must begin to ask ourselves, what is our alabaster flask? What are we holding onto that we cannot give up? What do we need to break at the feet of Jesus so that we have given Him all we have? What can we do so that we are walking in faith, with the promises of Jesus, rather than the security of man?
I pray that our world will be filled with Christ followers, just like those listed in Hebrews 11. That we will be known for how we boldly and sacrificially give our whole lives and hearts to Jesus in faith.
How will you finish this sentence? By faith (Your Name Here)…
Written by Christina Painter
Christina Painter is a wife, mom of two, and an elementary school librarian. She has a heart for women’s ministry and loves to encourage others through writing. You can read more from Christina on her personal blog, The Byway.