I love living in the holy land because I get to experience the Bible. I can walk the streets, learn the land, see the Bible and inhale the scents. Whenever I smell spikenard I am reminded of Mary’s faith and her gift to Jesus.

In all four of the Gospels we are told how Mary, the sister of Lazarus, came to Jesus and broke a small vessel of perfume over the head of Jesus. The Greek term used here is alabastron. These vessels are common finds across the Mediterranean. As the name suggests, they originally were made of alabaster but over time they began to be made of glass and ceramic as well. 

Mary Magdalene with Jesus

We read that she broke the alabastron and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. Jesus then says something enigmatic; He says that she did what she could and that she had come beforehand to anoint His body for burial. In the ancient Mediterranean world alabastron were widely used in burial ceremonies. Frequently, the alabastron would be ceremoniously broken and placed in the tomb with the deceased. She did what she could to prepare Jesus for His burial! 

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. (Mark 14:3) 

The precious spikenard that she poured over Him often lingered for several days in people’s hair. Two days after she anointed Him, His passion week began. During His last day on earth, her gift accompanied Him. From the moment of His arrest, to His trial and crucifixion, her gift lingered in the air about Him. Even when He was stripped and beaten, with everything removed from Him, her gift of perfume stayed. I believe that is why He said that “Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” What Christian would not want to accompany Jesus during these events? To witness the sacrifice of our Savior for us? She did not get to accompany her Savior through those moments, but her gift to Him did. 

What better way to remember the faith of Mary than to visit the holy sites of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas wearing spikenard? Perhaps you will visit Bethany, the tomb of Jesus or the Via Dolorosa wearing this scent that is such an important but overlooked part of Jesus’ story. Or maybe when you are home, you will smell this lovely perfume and remember Mary’s gift to Jesus.

A person who is in Jerusalem on a tour can do as Jesus said and remember the faith of Mary. At 24 Christian Quarter Road in the old city of Jerusalem, Zak’s Jerusalem Gifts offers alabaster jars and spikenard perfume. They are economically priced and make excellent souvenirs or presents.

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