Jesus had been anointed with the costly ointment, oil of nard, by Mary of Bethany*. When that had occurred some of the disciples, and in particular Judas Iscariot, had complained that this was an over the top gesture towards Jesus. The cost of such ointment was estimated at over 200 denarii – and we get an idea of how expensive that was if we realise that 1 denarius was the day’s wage for the average worker. So the ointment of nard cost the wages of a worker for 200 days. So Judas and some of the others rebuked Mary for “wasting” this on Jesus, suggesting that it be sold and the money given to the poor.
The generosity of Mary reveals how much she values Jesus. For her, no gift is too much for her Lord and Saviour. This is in complete contrast to Judas Iscariot who not only betrays Jesus but does so for money. He only values Jesus at thirty pieces of silver, which is the price of a slave (Ex 21:32).
What do we give our Lord? How generous are we? Or are we grudging in our gifts? Perhaps we think our Lord does not need our gift, and there are better uses for it? There is a world of difference between the giving of Mary and Judas. So how willing are we to give generously to our Lord? The Lord preserve us from giving a gift like Judas.
* Although Matthew does not reveal who anoints Jesus and merely says “a woman” (Mt 6:7), in John’s gospel (Jn 12:1-8) we hear that it was Mary of Bethany who anointed Jesus, and it is primarily Judas Iscariot who objects.