The spikenard was a fragrant plant, and its roots were used in Jesus’ day to make an aromatic, costly perfume and ointment. The plant, itself, grows in the Himalaya mountains at an elevation of 11,000 to 17,000 feet. For centuries, it was used by Hindus as a medicine and perfume and was an actively traded commodity. Its great cost stemmed from that it had to be transported over 6,000 miles to reach Palestine, and depending on quality, it sold for as much as 400 denarii per pound (or $750 an ounce, is the modern purchasing equivalent). That made it more valuable than gold. This ointment was worth at least two and one-half times more than the thirty pieces of silver that Judas received for betraying the Lord, which is why Judas was so upset. This perfume was worth two and one-half times what Judas thought Jesus was worth.
Judas didn’t care about the poor. He wanted to have the money that the perfume could have been sold for in his bag (he was the treasurer for Jesus) so he could steal it. This is a very serious crime that Jesus no doubt knew about, but scripture never mentions Him confronting Judas.
Judas’ reaction to this act of pure worship is typical of the reaction toward worship of many people today. Judas and some of the other disciples, thought this was a waste. That was only because they didn’t value Jesus as highly as Mary did. Mary had seen Jesus raise her brother from the dead and her heart was overflowing with love and worship. The disciples were looking on the outward things while Jesus was looking at Mary’s heart (1 Sam. 16:7). Those who cannot see beyond the physical realm will be offended at others’ displays of worship. True worship comes from the heart.