John 12: Mary’s Expensive Perfume

  • Read John 12:1-19 here.  Read Zechariah 9:9-13 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon  from John 12 (5 April), you can listen to it here.

I must confess that I have not done a lot of reading on how the broader christian world regards Palm Sunday.  In your experience, is Palm Sunday traditionally a day of celebration in other churches? I ask this because I have mixed feeling on the issue.  Obviously it was a joyful scene, but Jesus basically rejects that message by riding a humble donkey.  Should we really consider it a high point of his ministry, or is it really a high point in people misunderstanding his true ministry?  If you listen to my sermon above you’ll get my take on this question, but I’m open to other perspectives.

One of the verses I glossed over in my sermon was 12:8, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”  I’ve occasionally heard this verse used to defend the futility of giving to the poor.  (Perhaps these people would argue that preaching the Gospel is the only true way of helping the poor, not giving them financial gifts.)

Jesus makes the statement because some of his disciples were questioning the appropriateness of Mary’s extravagent action of pouring VERY EXPENSIVE perfume over Jesus feet.  Couldn’t the money have been used for something more practical, like helping the poor?

Jesus’ response does not reflect on the value of giving to the poor, rather he is saying that his disciples can give to the poor later, but right now is an appropriate time to worship him in this way.  He’s about to die.  Why save all the perfumes and care until he’s dead and buried?  Why not express worship to him now while he can acknowledge and appreciate it?

So let’s not try and find biblical reasons against helping those in poverty.  What these verses (4-8) actually show us is that Jesus and his disciples apparantly gave money to the poor.  Even though Luke 9:58 describes Jesus as not having a place (home) to lay his head, he still gave the poor.  So this passage actually supports those churches/ministries/people who have a heart for serving the poor and disadvantage.  It certainly doesn’t give an excuse to keep money for ourselves.

Songs & Scripture

Palm Sunday naturally turns our attention to the image of Jesus as king, whether that be earthly or spiritual and eternal.  Here are some kingly songs that come to mind for me. Do have some others you can add to the list?

  • King of My Life
  • Crown Him with Many Crowns
  • Crown Him, Crown Him (Sankey song book, I sang this in my home church)
  • Lord, Reign in Me (Zoe Group – 2004 album When the Music Fades)
  • Hosanna, You’re My King
  • You Are My King (aka. Amazing Love) (Zoe Group – 2001 album Deep Calls to Deep.)
  • King of Glory (Third Day – Offerings: A Worship Album, 2001)
  • King (Tree 63 – The Answer to the Question, 2005)
  • Here is Our King (David Crowder Band – A Collision, 2005)


  1. Pantja Wibowo

    The story of Mary and the expensive perfume was bother me last week before I read this website.
    I believe Holy Spirit bring me to read this website so that I understand more about the heart of giving just as Jesus done.
    God bless you!

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