John 12:1-11 Complete Gratitude for Grace

 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the money bag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

Complete Gratitude for Grace

The effects of Lazarus’ resurrection come into play.  Mary demonstrates a heart of gratitude that Jesus is with them and that her brother is healed.  The chief priests develop a spirit of anger and animosity and they want Lazarus dead again.  They are merchants of death who are dead within and bring death without.  They want Lazarus dead and they will kill Jesus to maintain the sepulcher within.

Mary’s gratitude is lavish.  She abases herself in front of everyone and she is lavish with her use of perfume.  There is something sensual and inappropriate in the minds of many readers as they observe her behavior in the pages of the Bible.  It is only because Jesus is our revealed savior that we allow her actions as righteous 2000 years later.

Are we grateful to Jesus to the extent that we would take a year’s salary and spend it on him? Not that we would give him something enduring like a house or even a car.  What if we bought him expensive cut flowers, took him out for a meal, or paid for him to go to a Cubs game?  Mary’s gift is more significant because it has to do with burial, but the gift is equally perishable.  This is why some onlookers gasped at the extravagance.  Mary lost herself in the presence of Jesus.  She gave with abandon.

My self gets in the way of my sacrifice.  My desires cause me to hold something back.  However, what holds me back from giving the most is my lack of gratitude.  Most of the time I have no thought for the hopeless condition I am in without Jesus.  In this Halloween season, where horror is a commodity, maybe we can remember the horror once more of our condition without Jesus.  We never see the extent of the sin in other people’s lives.  We only see the extent of it in ours.  We have the complete picture of our depravity available to us, but we are blind.  We catch a glimpse of others and the sin they present and we thank God that we are not like them.  However, if you saw your sin as God saw it you would be crushed.  You would want to hide.  You would be consumed with shame.  It is in the death of our sin that Jesus offers new life.  It is in the darkest night that Jesus brings the light.  If we get a glimpse of the amazing nature of God’s grace we will sing songs, smash perfume bottles, cry for joy and relief.


Some of us have looked into the darkness of our souls and seen the yawning chasm of darkness that dwells there apart from you.  You have illuminated a near infinite void and filled it with your light.  Help us to both see how hopeless we are without you and the great hope that is ours.  Help us to admit our sin and claim your grace.


  1. What does Mary do?
  2. How do people respond?
  3. Do the synoptic gospels tell the same story?
  4. What does it look like today when someone gives their most prized possessions to God?
  5. What does your gratitude compel you to do?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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23 Responses to John 12:1-11 Complete Gratitude for Grace

  1. Sara Cavitt says:

    1) She took an incredibly expensive perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet with it while wiping it with her hair.
    2) Judas Iscariot, and perhaps others, questioned her actions. Because he was a thief, he probably thought that it was a waste of money!
    3) The story is in each of the synoptic gospels, although in Matthew and Mark, it says that she anointed Jesus’ head with perfume. In Luke and John, it says that she poured the perfume onto His feet.
    4) To give one’s most prized possession to God shows a person’s thankfulness, humbleness and awareness of what He has done for them!
    5) Thinking about what Jesus has done for me in my life compels me to thank Him and to give all that I can give!

  2. karas says:

    I really like the picture chosen to accompany this devotional. It seems to capture the depth of the moment, and how passionate and sincere Mary was in her devotion to Christ. It makes you wonder how much she understood of what would happen to Him, and why she chose to do what she did at this time. May our love for Christ have this kind of depth and power, and not be casual in any way.

  3. Jenna says:

    1. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume.
    2. Judas especially is appalled, since the money she spent on the perfume could have been used in so many more efficient ways (through which he would have been able to profit).
    3. Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention a similar story, but it seems to be a different woman and in a different home. In the synoptic gospels Jesus is said to be dining at the house of “Simon the Leper” or a pharisee who is called Simon, and the woman is described as a bad, immoral woman. That description hardly seems to fit with this John account?
    4. Sometimes it isn’t even giving anything physically (though it can be, such as sacrificing financially to the Lord), but sometimes it is simply recognizing that everything you have is the Lord’s and that you are a steward and not an owner of everything He’s given you. That change of mind causes us to live radically different.
    5. My gratitude for what Jesus has done for me compels me to serve Him for the rest of my life, wherever He calls me.

  4. Rebekah Thompson (Bekah) says:

    1. Mary breaks a perfume bottle and dumps it on Jesus’ feet and washes his feet with her hair and worshiped him.
    2. I’m sure many didn’t know how to respond to this. They most likely understood why she was doing what she was doing but she was lowering herself so much and just giving all of her pride to God and worshiping him and making that her own concern. Judas responded with questions an rudeness as well as the religious leaders being angry and plotting against Jesus.
    3. They mention a story that seems to be similar except it does not seem to be the same woman nor does it seem to be in the same context or place.
    4. Beautiful and an act of love and true love for God. It also looks scary and challenging….because doing such an act is so difficult. To others it may look stupid.
    5. Today I was thanking God for how much he has blessed me beyond what I deserve and for just being God by singing and playing the ukelele (terribly) and writing and reading his Word.

  5. Ed says:

    I must say this was well said from Peter and the comments. It made me think of several things in depth so I would like to say thank you to all for painting a beautiful picture. This is a very hard time from Lazarus to Jesus being crucified and the unbelievable loss of Jesus to save us is over whelming, it leaves me speechless if you can imagine that.

  6. Beth Coale says:

    1. She pours out something that cost her a lot. She sacrificed the things and financial security it could have given her.
    2. They don’t understand her and how that sacrifice was worth it.
    4. I think about yesterday’s post that talked about the Pharisees serving God in a self-protecting (and even self-glorifying way). We have to be willing to let this go. I even think about what Amy Carmichael wrote about how what was the hardest thing for her serving as a missionary was not the heat of South India, not the language barrier, not how often she become sick, not the unfamiliar food, but how she was not understood and criticized by her friends and church family back home.
    5. I think about what David in 2 Samuel 24:24 said: “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” First of all, I also need to be more grateful. The gratefulness I do have makes me want to do something or give something that costs me; I think sacrifice is a true way of showing real love.

  7. Lacy says:

    1. Mary dumps an extremely expensive bottle of perfume on Jesus as an act of love and gratitude.
    2. People respond largely with disapproval.
    3. I believe one of the Synoptics may tell a similar story, but there are significant differences.
    4. Today in a fiercely independent culture I think it often looks like giving up our plans and goals and surrendering them to God.
    5. When I feel gratitude, it calls me to give more grace to other people than I otherwise would.

  8. Chelsea P. says:

    2 wows for me: 1.) Reading the passage and then looking at the picture of Mary’s face pressed against Jesus’ filthy feet, with her face full of unashamed emotion, struck a cord in me. The way the painter depicted her face, overcome with gratitude and love, convicted me. Do I approach my Savior with as much gratitude and love? 2.) Mr. Worrall says, “Mary lost herself in the presence of Jesus.” She did not care what others were thinking. She did not care if they viewed her as inappropriate, foolish, radical, or out of place. She was consumed with love and passion for her Lord. The things of the world grew dim, in light of who Jesus was to her. He was her everything.

  9. tim pruiett says:

    What does Mary do? she anoints Jesus feet with a year’s salary worth of perfume
    How do people respond? they are amazed and said she did the wrong thing and wasted her money
    What does it look like today when someone gives their most prized possessions to God? pople donating their money other things to benefit the church and Glorify God. Moody’s tuition paid education is one example
    What does your gratitude compel you to do? thank Jesus every day for His gift of Salvation and love on others and bless them like He has blessed me.

  10. Ashley says:

    1. Mary gives herself to Jesus. She loses herself and is wrapped up in the moment washing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and her hair. What she does is shocking and beautiful.
    2. People are skeptical and embarrassed for Mary at the scene she is making. They think she should have sold the perfume and given the money to the poor.
    4. I don’t know what it looks like for someone to give their most prized possessions to God today…I do think that, for me at least, it has to do with giving God ownership of my dreams, passions, and pursuits.
    5. My gratitude compels me to do a lot of things. Sometimes I sit down in silence and ponder all that God has done and all who he is. Sometimes I talk about him or write about him. Sometimes I pound on the piano and sing at the top of my lungs. Sometimes I am so overcome that I cry for a long time without being able to stop. Sometimes my gratitude doesn’t come naturally but the Lord is faithful in reminding me of who he is, bringing me, once again, to a place of thankfulness.

  11. Janice says:

    1. Mary gives the most valuable thing she has for Jesus.
    2. People respond in disgust at the waste of the ointment.
    3. The same story is told in the synoptic gospels with a little variation. In Matthew and Mark 14:3-9, she anoints Jesus’ head. Luke 7:36-50 tells the story of a sinful woman who washes and anoints Jesus’ feet with her tears and the ointment. Matthew, Mark, and John both say that the event takes place in Bethany, and the synoptic gospels all note that they are at the house of Simon the leper in Bethany.
    4. To give one’s most prized possessions to God, that person is willing to surrender all because he or she recognizes that full satisfaction is found only in Him.
    5. My gratitude compels me to praise Jesus and share the hope I have in Him with others.

  12. Dominic shortridge says:

    Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive oil.

    Judas is very upset that Mary anointed Jesus, not because he wanted the money for the poor, but because he wanted the money for himself.

    When people give their most prized possession to God they are praising him. As we had seen when Jesus was born, those who come to him bearing gifts seek to bless him.

    I am often not compelled greatly by my gratitude to give to Jesus. I always want more for myself, and to give to Jesus what I have would cause me to think of myself less, something is counterintuitive and difficult.

  13. Kathleen says:

    As I was reading this, I kept asking myself if I would be willing to give up my wages for a year and give them to Jesus. I like to think that I am a generous person. I have been told this by others before. But the truth is, I often do not give sacrificially. I need to spend more time reflecting on what Christ has done for me. I believe that with thankfulness comes generosity.

  14. Rachel says:

    When Mary gives lavishly of her love for Christ, people judged her and rejected her. Why do we assume that we will be accepted in our ridiculous love for God? I see the most striking offering to God today from those who give radically of their lives to God, whether this mean money, home, or vocation. My gratitude compels me to choose to love the smelly homeless people who come into my church on a given Sunday. My gratitude compels me to choose to listen to my roommates instead of going to bed. Gratitude toward God should be more prevalent in my life!

  15. nataliaria says:

    Mary uses a great amount of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet, and then uses her own hair to wipe His feet dry. Judas’ response is the only one (besides Jesus) told here, and he responds negatively, griping rather passive aggressively that the perfume might better have been used in a different way.

    All of the synoptics tell a story that is similar enough that I believe it to be the same story. Although they place less emphasis on both the woman who anoints Jesus and the one(s) who complain against the excessive demonstration of adoration.

    I’m honestly not quite sure what it would look like today for someone to give their most precious possession to God. Because Jesus does not walk among us in incarnate form, I think it is a little harder, or more abstract, to envision how this would be done, because it seems like, in order to give possessions to God, they must pass through a human conduit such as the church or another organization. But maybe I’m not thinking far enough outside of the box on this one. As an additional thought, maybe the more prevalent contemporary model of this is giving one’s whole life to Christ in a more radical, complete way, such as in full time ministry?

    My gratitude compels me to a much deeper understanding of the irrelevance of many of the things that I allow to occupy my mind every day. When I sit and ponder the greatness of God and the unfathomable depth of His grace and love for me on a very personal and intimate level, I find myself naturally coming to a place of wanting to offer more of myself to Him. I begin to recognize the triviality of so many of the things that I prioritize, or of my motivations, and the ways in which people have given themselves radically to Him in the past don’t seem nearly as crazy as they once did. When I consider all that He has done, and all that He has given, and all that He is, to live a life deeply and unequivocally devoted to Him doesn’t seem nearly so challenging or foreign- it seems like the only natural thing to do.

  16. Sarah Deurbrouck says:

    1. What does Mary do?
    She anoints Jesus’ feet with very expensive oil and then wipes his feet with her hair.
    2. How do people respond?
    Judas is not happy. He wants the profits of what that oil could have been sold for.
    3. Do the synoptic gospels tell the same story?
    The synoptic gospels to tell the sam story, but with some variety.
    4. What does it look like today when someone gives their most prized possessions to God?
    It means they go on the mission field without their $100,000 missionary support salary. It means they give up their quiet, relaxed evenings, to spend time on the streets or with a neighbor sharing the gospel. It means they move into a rough neighborhood of Chicago despite any safety issues so they can minister there. It means not going through Starbucks every morning before work. We are not called to extravagance and comfort in this life. We need to stop striving for it. My most prized possession are my husband and my safety. I must be willing to live in a situation where those are not guaranteed. That does not mean that no matter what I must go live wherever that may be right now. But I must be willing. Amd for many of us, that may mean immediate sacrifice.
    5. What does your gratitude compel you to do?
    Be obedient to whatever God calls me.

  17. Amy McCashen says:

    What does Mary do? She anoints Jesus’ feet and then wipes them off with her hair.
    How do people respond? They are angry because the oil was very expensive.
    Do the synoptic gospels tell the same story? Yes, but there is a difference to them too. They are written from a different perspective.
    What does it look like today when someone gives their most prized possessions to God? It looks like a big sacrifice- and it takes a lot of trust in God for His provision.
    What does your gratitude compel you to do? My gratitude compels me to serve God and give up some of the things I have or want so that I can serve Him better.

  18. Nick says:

    She took an expensive perfume bottle and anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. People responded negatively, specifically Judas Iscariot, who was greedy and wanted to profit from the perfume instead. I think that someone giving their prized possessions to God is to offer it up to God and acknowledge that all of our possessions are his. It looks like complete and utter reliance on God to provide for us when we give all we have to him.

  19. Laura Walters says:

    I want to think that I would respond to Jesus as Mary did, but functionally I find myself responding to grace in shame. I’m not sure if this stems from a focus on self or really just a misunderstanding of what grace is — the heart of grace. I pray that I may be able to trust the heart of grace and respond out of a place of gratitude rather than fear and shame.

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