It Is an Affectionate Love
Fourth, it is an affectionate love. Mary poured out this very costly perfume upon Jesus, and then wiped His feet with her hair. Whatever else this act may signify, it at the least signifies the great affection which Mary felt for her Lord. Hers was not a distant admiration for Jesus as a “good teacher” (cf. Mark 10:17). It was an intense, emotional, affectionate love for her Savior.
Is your love for Jesus affectionate? Does it stir your emotions? I grant you that men and
women feel and display emotions in different ways. I grant you that different people have different personalities and different degrees of emotional depth. I am not saying that you need to get all weepy and sappy when you think or talk about Jesus. In the Garden need not be your favorite hymn (because Jesus isn’t your boyfriend…). What I am saying, however, is that your love for Christ needs to affect you on an emotional level. Jesus is a real Person, who really died in your place upon a real cross, shedding real blood, absorbing real wrath which was really due for you. That Jesus is a real Person means that you will relate to Him with real emotions. Do you love Him? Or is Jesus just an idea, a name spoken, fact learned, a prayer prayed, a ticket for heaven punched?
It Is a Costly Love
Fifth, genuine love for Christ is a costly love. The perfume which Mary poured over Jesus was very expensive, and there was a lot of it. John writes that it was a “pound of very costly perfume of pure nard” (12:3). Basically, this was a 12-ounce flask of perfumed oil imported from India, where the nard plant was grown. When Judas complains that it shouldn’t have been “wasted” upon Jesus, he says that it should have been sold for 300 denarii and the money given to the poor (12:5). Unless Judas is exaggerating, the value of this perfume was roughly equivalent to a year’s wages (they did not work on Sabbaths or festival days). Put into today’s terms, this would be about $25,000 (300 twelve hour days at minimum wage). That is what Mary thought of Jesus’ worth, of His supreme value. To Mary’s mind, of course the Lord of Glory is worth her pouring out a $25,000 flask of perfume in order that she may worship Him and anoint Him for the day of His burial. She probably wished she had more to give. But to Judas’ mind, this was an incredible waste, which is not surprising considering that in just a few days Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, or about $1,000. That’s what Judas thought of Jesus’ worth. Judas’ objection was not borne of genuine concern for the poor, but of greed. For Judas was a thief who used to pilfer from the money box (12:6). If the perfume had been sold, he would have been able to steal a portion of it.
How much you think of Jesus’ worth will be evident in how much you are willing to give to worship Him. Does your giving to the worship and work of Christ reflect that He is your supreme treasure? Or does your stingy giving reflect a stingy heart that loves stuff and comfort and earthly treasures far more than it loves Jesus? Do you always give to Christ only what is left over after your wants and desires are all fulfilled, or do you say with King David, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing” (2 Kings 24:24). Lavish love manifests itself in lavish gifts to the object of our love. So whether we’re talking about money, or time, or service, what does your giving say about the genuineness of your love?
It Is Our Primary Love
Finally, genuine love for Christ is a primary love. That is, our love for Christ takes precedence over all other loves. Look at Jesus’ words in verses 7-8 – “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” Jesus was not going to be with His disciples in the flesh much longer. Therefore, instead of spending this money to relieve the suffering of the poor, it is appropriate and right that Mary should spend it all, every last drop, to worship Him.
By the way, only a fool would say that this verse gives us warrant to ignore the poor. The Bible makes abundantly clear that we should give, generously and sacrificially, to relieve the suffering of the poor. In fact, Jesus says that one of the ways we love Him is by caring for the poor (Matt. 25:31-46). Jesus’ point is that He is to be our supreme treasure. And while they have the opportunity to spend time worshiping and loving Him in the flesh, the poor can wait. Jesus is first… always. We are to love Him more than we love our families (Matt. 10:37), more than we love our own lives (John 12:25). Love for Jesus must be our primary love.
Go To the Fountain
Every person falls into one of two camps. On the one hand are those who do not love Jesus at all, or maybe their “love” for Christ is fake, fraudulent, and disingenuous. And on the other hand are those of us who do not love Jesus as much as we should, as much as we would like to if only we were free from this body of sin and death that divides our affections and leaves us “prone to wander. . . prone to leave the God I love.” Nobody loves Jesus perfectly… not yet.
So to both groups, the remedy is the same. Go to the fountain and drink deeply of the gospel of Christ, wherein His love for you is manifested so clearly in His death upon the cross. Drink of this gospel, and continue to drink, until you find love for Christ consuming your heart and mind. “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:14-15). May we love and live for Him who died and rose again on our behalf.
 Carson, 428.