The Roman governors at their best were sensitive to the people they governed, and there's a story that Josephus tells us that has great bearing at this point. An officer by the name of Petronius was ordered to put images of the emperor in the temple in Jerusalem. He knew the problem this would cause with the Jews. So he actually disobeyed the emperor, and then he sent a letter to the emperor to explain why he could not carry out it out. The emperor understood Petronius’ failure to follow the order, and no further action was taken. But Pilate wasn't at all like that.

In John 18 and 19, Jesus is on trial before Pilate, who is the governor in Jerusalem whom the occupying Romans had put in power. In the context of this trial we get an insightful description of this man Pilate. It is perhaps noteworthy to have him in this series of people whom Jesus encountered. For one thing, he's a Gentile, and more than that, he is a representative of Rome. Another thing that's striking about this encounter is the amount of space that's given over to him. You find it in the other Gospels, but John records more of the conversation between Pilate and Jesus. He's introduced in John 18:28, where the Sanhedrin, the assembly of Jewish leaders, takes Jesus to the Roman governor for the Roman part of the trial.

Well, there's one other thing to be said about this story. It's not here in John, but it is mentioned elsewhere. In Mark 14:9, Jesus said of this woman, “What she has done is going to be a memorial for her throughout all generations.” And so it is, because it is here in the Bible. Look how many centuries it has been since this happened, and here we are studying what this woman did. We remember her, because of the love she showed to Jesus Christ and the understanding she had of his coming death and burial.

Now here's the third thing. I have talked about Mary's extravagance, as well as her love. The third thing is her understanding. She was great at all three of these. Again, you have to see this by a contrast. Jesus said in verse 7, “Leave her alone; it was meant that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.” Mary knew what she was doing. Nard was used in funeral arrangements, and when she poured this out on Jesus it was a way of saying, “I know that you're going to die. I know that's what you came for.”

Now the second thing, in addition to the extravagance, is Mary's love, and I would even combine the two by saying that what we see in the story is the extravagance of her love. Real love is always extravagant. Love isn't cautious about what it gives or what it promises. Love always promises the most. It gives everything it can, and beyond. You only have to read 1 Corinthians 13 to find out something about what love is like, and that's the kind of love that Mary was showing here.