Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

A Beautiful Thing

MaryA few days before His death, the Master Teacher was honored at a dinner. During the banquet, Mary entered the room, opened a bottle of expensive perfume, poured it on Him, and wiped His feet with her hair.[1]

Some attendees complained. The perfume, worth a year’s wages, could have been sold for practical purposes. The Master Teacher rebuked them.

Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.[2]

Where others saw waste, the Master saw beauty. To Him, this worldly extravagance was a gift. As Mary poured out a precious treasure, she turned a mundane duty, washing a guest’s feet, into an act of worship.

Like washing feet, teaching might be seen as a mundane duty; teachers may feel second-class. Toil for teaching might seem like a waste, a worldly extravagance, when our efforts could be devoted to feeding the hungry, helping the broken, and rescuing the lost. But if we’re willing to pour out the treasure of our time and energy and mental resources, our duty may become an act of worship, our worldly extravagance a beautiful thing for the Master Teacher.

Mary’s act was beautiful not because of the gift but because of her heart. She knew the Master, had listened to His teaching, and chose what was better.[3] Here again, in spite of societal norms and expectations, she makes a better choice, letting down her hair, performing work usually reserved for servants, a “second-class citizen” entering into the presence of men. Not for attention or applause but with humility, she chose to honor her King.

In many ways, teaching involves choosing the better part. Sometimes we have to let down our hair in order to get basic principles across rather than expounding, with dignity, on more philosophical topics. Often we slave over struggling students in simple classrooms for little money in out of the way places. At times we enter into awkward situations to offer help, all the while questioning whether or not our efforts are personally and culturally acceptable. And so, we anoint the Master Teacher with humility.

As Mary offered her gift, the room was filled with the perfume’s aroma. To some, Judas in particular, it was the smell of death. To others, the Master Teacher specifically, it was the fragrance of life.[4] Whether Mary understood the significance of her act or not, the Master seemed to feel loved, honored, and affirmed in the rightness of what was to come.

As we turn the duty of teaching into an act of worship, we offer up a pleasing aroma to the Master Teacher. As we humbly let down our hair, we spread His fragrance in our classrooms. And so throughout the world and across time, a similar story is told. It’s the one about the Master with students in a major role and teachers kneeling down to do beautiful things.

[1]I’m assuming that Mark 14:1-11 and John 12:1-11 tell the same story.
[2]Mark 14:6-9, New International Version.
[3]Luke 10:38-42.
[4]2 Corinthians 2:14-16.

Further exploration

  • Mark 14:1-11; John 12:1-11
  • Luke 10:38-42
  • 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

What’s your perspective?

  • What do you learn about life and profession from Mary’s “beautiful thing”?
  • Have you ever felt second-class in your work as a teacher or that your efforts could be better used elsewhere? How does Mary’s example change your perspective?

Post Author

Melissa K. Smith

Photo Credit: Karim Onsi via Compfight cc

2 comments on “A Beautiful Thing

  1. Ken Smith
    June 25, 2015

    As usual this was very thought-provoking. I am unable to let my hair down, but it
    is always well to cultivate humility in connection with teaching.


    • Melissa
      June 25, 2015

      Humility. Something I need to work on. Always.


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This entry was posted on June 23, 2015 by in ancient models for teachers, Melissa K. Smith.



Photo Credit: Eric Fischer via Compfight cc
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