It was scandalous. How could she do such a thing? Everyone in the room was shocked. Some were appalled. Others were disgusted. Jesus was only days away from the crucifixion, when she came into the room, broke open a bottle of very expensive perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus. Mary of Bethany was extravagant with her gift.
It was likely the most valuable thing she owned. It could have been sold and given to the poor, but now it was “wasted” on Jesus. Like Mary, we want to glorify and please our Lord, but what does it mean to glorify Him?
We seek to glorify God because we love Him. To love God is to seek His glory. Mary desired to honor Jesus and give Him her best. Part of her motivation was simple love for the One who raised her brother Lazarus from the dead. Loving God is a priority of any disciple. It is the greatest commandment. Love for Jesus motivates us to serve as teachers and church leaders. As we serve and live to glorify God, our best motive is love for Him. In light of all He has done for us, it only makes sense to give our best for His glory.
The effort to glorify God is often born out of a desire to know Him more deeply. Moses had walked with the Lord many years and seen God do miraculous things, when he asked, “Show me Your glory.” Moses had seen God’s activity close up and personal. He saw God defend him and destroy his enemies. He saw God affirm his life and ministry many times. He saw the hand of God in ways we can only imagine; yet, he wanted to know God even more intimately. There is no greater thing for a mortal man than knowing Jesus. The stronger our walk with God, the greater our capacity to glorify His name.
Seeking to glorify God also involves a willingness to suffer and sacrifice for Him. When Jesus spoke of Peter’s death, He spoke of it as a way in which Peter would glorify God. This is the same Peter who would later write, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16). As we suffer mistreatment for the sake of the gospel, Jesus is glorified.
As we lay down our lives in service to others in Jesus’ name, He is glorified. Not even a selfless cup of water given for His purposes goes unnoticed by the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul speaks of gifts and sacrifices for others as something that glorifies God. Our work in Sunday School may not be on the same level of a martyr’s death, but it is a way in which God allows us to glorify Him. As we give our offerings and talents and time to the work of Jesus, He is pleased and honored.
Moral purity glorifies God. As Christians, our bodies are now temples of the Holy Spirit, redeemed by God through the sacrifice of His Son. In 1 Corinthians 6, we are taught that our sexual purity is a key factor in giving glory to God. It honors God to save physical intimacy for marriage and to keep the marriage bed undefiled in keeping with our wedding vows to God and one another. With all the pressure from the world to compromise moral purity, it is easy to forget how important this is to the Lord. Obviously, it should be important to us as well.
Mary of Bethany glorified Jesus with her selfless act of love. The fragrance of her gift would linger for days on earth, but for eternity in heaven. As we live and serve to glorify Jesus, we also lay up eternal treasure, and we will hear Him say, “Well done.”
David Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors FBC So. Lebanon, Oh.