In the ancient times, spikenard was a powerful expensive perfume that also possessed medicinal value. It was obtained from India. The Hindus extracted this perfume from the roots of the plant Nardostachys jatamansi which grows in the upper pasture lands of the Himalayas at an elevation of 11,000 to 17,000 feet. It was among the precious Oriental perfumes and ointments and was regarded as an article of trade.
Spikenard is mentioned in both the old and new testament of the bible. In the old testament, spikenard is recorded in the book the Songs of Solomon, which is a beautiful eastern love poem extolling the love relationship between a husband and a wife. The poetry itself serves as a beautiful illustration of the love of Christ for the church. “While the king is at his table, my spikenard sends forth its fragrance. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me” (ch. 1:12, 13 also 4:13–14). For Solomon’s bride (or the church) the name of her beloved (Christ) meant more to her than any perfume, however sweet.
In the new testament, spikenard is again mentioned when “Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12:3, also John 12:3). The act could not be hidden for the strong odor permeated the room and called attention to Mary’s act.
Matthew notes that the “disciples … had indignation” and criticized her for the waste which could have been given to the poor instead (Matthew 26:9). But Jesus said to them, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always” (John 12: 7, 8 also Matthew 26:12; Mark 14:8). Mary’s act of love reflected the very same spirit that had moved Jesus to sacrifice His life for His children.
In His service,