She Matters (Mark 14:1-9)



The past few generations, including the past few years, have seen an increase in public marches and civil protests about women’s rights. Many of these groups are opposed to religious views, specifically to Christianity, believing that they are oppressive to women.

However, the irony is that Jesus and Christianity have been the strongest source and influence in history to promote female voices and protect women.

If you were expecting someone important to visit your home, you would eagerly wait for their arrival by looking out the window or standing at the front door.[1] Likewise, the front door of the Scriptures start with the creation account of women being created in God’s image. The first declaration from God that something was “not good,” was the absence of a woman. So, God applied His distinct handiwork and personal signature in the creation of women. And, when Adam saw her, he sang of her beauty and equal complement (Gen 2:23-24).

The first declaration from God that something was “not good,” was the absence of a woman.

Further women were created not as a lower-class citizen of creation but as a corresponding partner with equal value and purpose as man (Genesis 1-2). Even at humanity’s catastrophic failure to trust and obey God in Genesis 3, God still gave women a place of prominence with a promised offspring who will redeem all creation and reverse the curse (3:15). And many other women acted with faith and bravery at decisive moments to protect the line of the promised offspring and grow godly generations: Hebrew midwives not aborting Israelite children, Rahab the harlot protecting the Israelite army, Ruth overcoming suffering and tragedy, Esther standing up to murderous threats and genocide, and Mary receiving the shame of her community but trusting the angel’s announcement that she would bear a Son. Further, it was female disciples of Jesus who supported Jesus while experiencing the pain of crucifixion, and the first to report the good news of the resurrection.

Sociologist, Rodney Stark[2] recounts in ancient Roman culture, both abortion and infanticide were accepted practice. Yet, early Christians forbade these practices and took in unwanted children. Christians upheld the value of women, deeming them worthy of sacrificial love and meaningful service in the church.

Even further, Christianity has improved the lives of women throughout the world by working to end oppressive practices like infanticide, euthanasia, child marriage, divorce without alimony, polygamy, and female illiteracy. Women’s suffrage was undergirded by Christian women.[3] Overall, Christianity has gone from being the faith of a tiny minority to the most widespread and racially and culturally diverse religion, with women disproportionately representing the church (this is both a credit to women, while an indictment upon men).[4]

Today’s message is not specifically addressed in Rebecca McLaughlin’s book: The Secular Creed. Yet, the topic is addressed in some of her other books: Jesus Through The Eyes Of Women, and Confronting Christianity. Additionally, with today being Mother’s Day, it is appropriate to reflect on the value of women while our world often devalues and dismisses women.

In Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus dignifying a woman in 4 ways.

EXAMINE                       Mark 14:1-9 “She Matters”
Jesus dignified Mary with presence.

1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him,
2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came

Jesus enters Jerusalem and He is days before the end of His life. The scene is set with the odious air of religion, harsh betrayal, unjust arrest, and violence. And yet, Mark changes the scenery to an intimate meal among friends. Theologians call this a
“Markan Sandwich,” not relating to food but prose – where the author introduces a story, changes the topic, and then returns to the prior topic to complete the story. But the middle of the sandwich is the key ingredient to understanding the surrounding elements.

So, we must pay attention to the meat of this passage, which is recorded in at least 3 of 4 Gospel accounts (Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9; Jn 12:1-8; possibly Lk 7:36-50, likely Gospel authors write different details for their own purposes and is all same account). Mary’s anointing of Jesus is preparation for what is to come in His life, but also provides a model of Christian discipleship.

The Gospel accounts frequently paint the apostles as a negative example but by contrast, female followers of Jesus are repeatedly noted for their faithfulness.[5]  In fact, if we were to remove all the scenes of Jesus’ life not witnessed by women, we would admittedly lose a small portion of the texts. However, if we removed the scenes of Jesus’ life only witnessed by women, then we would lose:

  • Multiple accounts of the Savior in utero with Mother Mary (Lk 1-3).
  • A glimpse of the infant Jesus by an 84-year-old widow (Lk 2).
  • Seeing Jesus’ compassion for a women burdened by sin and broken by her life struggles (Jn 4).
  • Recognizing the spiritual and financial support of female disciples in Jesus’ ministry (Lk 8:1-3).
  • Hearing Jesus speak with authority over spiritual struggles in a women’s life (Mk 7:24-30).
  • Seeing Jesus grieve with tears over the death of a friend (Jn 11).
  • First glimpses of the empty tomb and of Jesus’ resurrected body (Jn 20).

The Gospel accounts frequently paint the apostles as a negative example but by contrast, female followers of Jesus are repeatedly noted for their faithfulness.

In this passage Mark 14, there are not just women present but a handful of other guests.

  • Simon the leper. Not much is known about this man beyond the fact that he was diseased. Can you imagine the social stigma of being known by your sickness?
    • Covid Karen / Diabetes Dave / Alzheimer Andy / Cancer Charlie / Stroke Shirley / Addict Amelia

Leprosy was a skin disease that included swelling rashes, running sores, and frequently led to loss of fingers and toes.[6]

As a leper, he would have been viewed as unclean in the community and unfit to worship God (Lev 13:3). He would be required to quarantine from other members in the community.
Yet, in this case, Jesus and the disciples are eating publicly with Simon the leper, so we can safely assume that Simon has been healed by Jesus.

  • Martha: She was a sister of Mary and Lazarus, and a dear disciple of Jesus. She had a hospitable spirit (Lk 10:38). Sometimes her welcome wasn’t always warm, nor her serving tasks always sweet (Lk 10:40-41; Jn 11:20). And she plainly reminded Jesus before He commanded Lazarus’ tomb to be unsealed that her brother’s body had a four-day funk (Jn 11:39). Yet, Jesus was gentle in response to nudge Martha to value relationship over work and faith over fear.

  • Lazarus: He was one of Jesus’ close friends who lived in Bethany, the place where Simon lives. More importantly, Lazarus is the individual who was previously ill that led to his death. And thankfully, Jesus performed the greatest miracle known to humanity in raising Lazarus back to life!
    – Wouldn’t you want to be at this dinner party to ask questions? I mean, it’s not often you meet someone who has died! We could ask questions: What was it like to die? Are you sad that you have to die again? Who broke the news o you that you had to come back… An angel sorting paperwork, “Look Lazarus, your sisters Martha won’t stop crying, Mary’s crying too, and now Jesus is crying – sorry pal, you’re going back.” But seriously, the conversations about hope, heaven, and the love of a family would be a soothing balm for aches and anguish of every weary soul.

  • Mary: She is unnamed in Mark’s Gospel but reported in John’s Gospel. Again, she was Martha & Lazarus’ sister. She is mentioned three times in the Gospels, and each time she is at the feet of Jesus (Lk 10:38-42; Jn 11:31-32; 12:1-8).  

  • Other disciples?: Based on the reality this account is present in all 4 Gospels, other disciples were present at this dinner fellowship, including Judas, which became the hinge point to act in betrayal toward Jesus (Mk 14:10-11).

Author Dorothy Sayers, a friend of C.S. Lewis, wrote:
Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there had never been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, who never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously, who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no ax to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words of Jesus that there was anything ‘funny’ about woman’s nature.[7]

Jesus dignified women with fellowship. He valued them as equal and unique partners in ministry.

  • Phone or presence with mom and mom-figures in your life.  
  • Men: Treat women as a sister (alone in a male locker room). In other words, be careful of going too far with sarcasm that can spiral out of control.
  • Women: Treat other females as mothers and daughters (as swimming in an ocean). In other words, have fun but lookout for overwhelming waves, or worse – sharks.
    • Ladies – Whether you are a motivated Martha or a relaxed Mary, you need soul sisters to share laughs and support during hardships.

Jesus dignified Mary with acceptance.

3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

Mary had just seen Jesus do the most spectacular and supernatural miracle of raising her brother from the dead. She was grateful to Jesus, and she wasn’t afraid to show emotion, whether from pain or joy. She didn’t love Jesus in partial but in full. Some people measure out their faith and devotion to Jesus. They think in terms of set hours or scheduled days. But Mary didn’t measure; her love was incalculable and unrestrained.

Some people measure out their faith and devotion to Jesus. They think in terms of set hours or scheduled days. But Mary didn’t measure; her love was incalculable and unrestrained. #Mark14

Mary enters the house and interrupts the dinner carrying an “alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard.” The perfume was undiluted nard – whose oil was imported from Himalayan Mts.[8], and therefore very expensive – more than 300 denarii (Mk 14:5), or about a year’s wages. This perfume was likely inherited or planned usage for a future dowry, or even possibly purchased from the woman’s unseemly vocation (cf. Lk 7:37-39).

In every setting of Mary’s uncertain life and extravagant behavior, Jesus dignified her with acceptance.

  • Jesus listened to her, even when she was venting frustration (Jn 11:21-22).
  • Jesus encouraged her grief with hopeful promises (Jn 11:25).
  • Jesus wept and grieved with her (Jn 11:32-35).
  • Jesus walked with her to her brother’s tomb (Jn 11:34).
  • Jesus accepted Mary’s anointing from head to toes (Mk 14:3; cf Ps 23:5). Mary disregarded the cultural customs of a woman not approaching a man, and expressed extravagant devotion toward Jesus.
  • Since Jesus accepts our worship, why should we hold back? Mary’s breaking the flask reminds us there are moments when some people measure or hold back. Yet, Mary doesn’t need the flask because her worship was not partial but total. She gave Jesus her most precious and costly possession.
    • Today, some people have possessions that are used and attempt to give to church while they purchase a new and upgraded model. Why not the reverse if we believe Jesus is truly worthy of our worship?

  • Ladies in specific, but men too, sometimes have past hurts that cause them to suppress emotion, reserve participation, and withhold contribution. There are definitely times and season to grieve and heal from hurt. But if we nurture our wounds instead of allowing them to scar and heal, then we miss out on moments of giving joy to Jesus.

Jesus dignified Mary with protection.

4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that?
5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.
6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.

Mark’s Gospel leaves the criticizers unnamed. While some of the crowd is indignant (ἀγανακτέω external anger; growling). It’s the same word used to describe how the disciples felt and James & John asking to sit next to Jesus in heaven (Mk 10:41). And based on the response of Jesus, the women felt intimidated and threatened. Further, they rebuked her harshly (ἐνεβριμῶντο; means to flare the nostrils; growling anger).[9]

We also know from John’s Gospel that Judas becomes a spokesperson of the dissenting voices. As they watched the costly perfume be lavishly poured out and drip along the ground, they described the act as a waste (ἀπώλεια = destruction).
Their response indicated they wishes to stop the waste, refill the bottle and recoup the money.

In this sense, the disciples were not only chastising Mary, but they were belittling Jesus. They did not believe Jesus was worthy of generous sacrifice. Sadly, some churches and Christians are content with moderate or minimal service to Jesus. The standards are low because their view of Jesus’ lordship is low.

George Whitefield, the evangelist of the First Great Awakening, said, “Oh for a thousand lives to be spent in service for Christ!”[10]

Jesus responds with His own reprimand: “Get away and leave her alone.” Jesus is unafraid to place His own reputation and life on the line for one who was being mistreated.

Further, Jesus’ evaluation of Mary’s devotion is not wasteful but beautiful. Each of us need to grow in our discipleship where we see our worship for God as beautiful and not just useful. Mary was not attempting to gain a reward for her act, because she knows Jesus is days away from death. Can you imagine spending 30-50K on someone who is about to die? Worshiping Jesus will often not appear rational in this world, but it will reveal the sincerity of your faith.

Two practical applications of this principle

  • God’s people to protect and support women during unplanned pregnancies. Encourage every family to take 1 baby bottle to fill for our local pregnancy clinic.
  • Personal prayer hardly seems rational. It looks like you’re talking to yourself. It feels futile because you’re uncertain if/when God is listening and generally there’s not immediate gratification for a response. But prayer is the investment with the one who died and rose, and promises the fragrance of your prayers is pleasing and will be blessed.
    • For you, it might not be prayer but some other action that appears irrational to the world but reveals the sincerity of your faith: Giving / Evangelizing a friend / Fostering or Adoption / Vocational calling / etc.

Worshiping Jesus will often not appear rational in this world, but it will reveal the sincerity of your faith.

Jesus dignified Mary with recognition.

7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.
8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.
9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Judas and the religious people thought the perfume should have been sold and shared the finances with the poor. But Jesus knew their hearts, and they did not truly care for the poor as much as they sought indiscreet ways to line their own pockets. Further, in Mary’s eyes, Jesus’ life consisted of poverty. She was showering her wealth upon one who was without earthly riches.

2 Cor 9:8 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

Jesus also knew the OT Law already had provisions for helping the poor: field gleaning (Lev 19:9-10); not perverting justice (Lev 19:15; Ps 82:3-4); generous giving (Deut 15:7-11; Pr 14:21; 19:17; 29:7); praying for and proclaiming the gospel to poor (Is 58:6-10; 61:1; Mt 25:40; Ac 3:6). Therefore, Jesus was taking a realistic approach to complex challenges among the poor, and recognizing poverty will never be eradicated until the new heavens and earth. Yet, Jesus’ presence on earth was limited until His future return. Jesus’ point was not about neglecting the needs of the poor but that they can be cared for in multiple other ways, but this opportunity to serve Him was momentary.

Jesus recognized Mary’s act was helping the inheritance-less Son of Man prepare for His burial. So, her act would be proclaimed to the whole world.

Today, we acknowledge Jesus and are recognized by Him when we serve others.

  • We can ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you a drink; or a stranger and welcome you; or naked and clothe you; or sick or in prison and visit you?” And Jesus says, “Truly, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:37-40)
  • Who is one person or where is one place to serve that will be hidden for worldly applause but is for God’s kingdom cause? The key is to look at those the world discards easily.
    • Children.
    • Elderly.
    • Mental illness.
    • Women/Men


Worship is not wasted. Jesus is watching and is worthy.

  • Your financial giving is not foolish.
  • Your time serving is not unseen.
  • Your compassion is not unappreciated.
  • Isaac Watts: “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
  • The only appropriate response to God’s love is to love in return.

Be warned there are many paths and opportunities, and the gravitational pull away from Jesus is strong. Judas listened to Jesus’ sermons and Bible studies, observed faithful examples of discipleship, but still sought to betray Jesus (Mk 14:11). What appeared to Judas as a hopeful and satisfying opportunity became his deepest disappointment and profoundest regret.   

[1] Some insights in the following paragraphs from Elyse Fitzpatrick & Eric Shumacher, Worthy: Celebrating The Value Of Women, p.19, ff. See also Schumacher’s article “21 Places Women Emerge Front And Center In Scripture’s Storyline.”

[2] Rodney Starke, The Rise Of Christianity.


[4] See Rebecca McLaughlin, Jesus Through The Eyes Of Women analysis, pp. 14, ff.

[5] See Rebecca McLaughlin, Jesus Through The Eyes Of Women, p.21, ff.

[6] Chad Brand et al., eds., “Leprosy,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1025.

[7] Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 47.

[8] R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 551.

[9] James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 415.

[10] Quoted in Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Mark, ed. Daniel L. Akin, David Platt, and Tony Merida, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2014), 322.

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