While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
This story of a woman anointing Jesus with a very expensive perfume is beautiful for several reasons.
One, it demonstrates this woman's deep love and devotion to Jesus. Society frowned upon public demonstrations of affection, much less such intimate gestures. Yet, she was willing to break social norms and expectations to show her love and gratitude toward him. Her actions exemplify what it means to truly love and serve Jesus, putting him above all else, sparing NO expense whatsoever. How expressive are we when it comes to showing our love for Jesus?
Two, notice the reaction of the disciples to the woman's actions. They criticize her for wasting expensive oil, which could have been sold, and the money given to the poor. Jesus rebukes them, saying that the woman's act was a beautiful gesture. This suggests the importance of recognizing and appreciating acts of love and devotion, even if they do not conform to our own expectations or preferences. It also leads us to a second question: How generous are we when it comes to showing our love for Jesus?
Three, the passage points toward Jesus' impending death and burial. Anointing with oil was a common practice for preparing a body for burial. Jesus' reference to this underscored the reality of his imminent death. Why did he bring up the subject here? Because his death was a sign of God's great love for us, his EXTRAVAGANT LOVE. The apostle Paul would later say: Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7-8).
And this brings us to a third question: The woman did not know the extent of Christ's love for her because, at that point, he had not yet died on the cross; yet, she was remarkably extravagant — I use the word with deliberation — with the display of her love for him. Given that we KNOW the extent of Christ's love, how can we deny him anything? Lots to ponder about today.
May the Spirit be with you.