Holy Week - Tuesday
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3-9)
Things are beginning to hot up for Jesus. The great welcome of Palm Sunday is now just a memory, and the hierarchy in Jerusalem are looking to get rid of him. Permanently. Jesus has been teaching widely in Jerusalem and people are amazed at the authoritative way in which he speaks. The scribes have tried to trip him up, and failed. He has upset the status quo, and the plot was thickening.
In the midst of this turmoil and intrigue Jesus comes to Bethany, about two miles outside Jerusalem. It’s a town he knows well since his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus live there. This time, though, he is at the house of Simon the leper eating a meal with his disciples when a woman comes in with a jar of perfume. To the surprise of those in the room she cracks it open, and pours it on Jesus’ head.
Now, this was expensive stuff. High quality perfume, sealed in a costly jar to keep it safe and worth about a year’s wages. In fact, some in the room were indignant. After all, the Passover was a time for giving to the poor, not pouring stuff on people’s heads! What a waste of money, what a waste of resources! What bad stewardship.
But Jesus has another view: “She has done a beautiful thing to me. You will not always have me”. Even more – “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”. High praise indeed.
Let me draw some things out of this passage. Firstly, she did this for Jesus. Not the church, or the poor or even for the good of the people around her. No she did this as an act of devotion to Christ
Secondly, look at the woman’s actions. Her heart had told her to go beyond bare duty. She didn’t calculate cost or weigh it up. Her heart prompted her to a costly act of devotion and she did. Oh that our hearts grow bigger! Let not our heads quench our devotion to Christ.
Thirdly, her actions had unexpected consequences. Jesus said that “she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” Did she know that is what she was doing? I suspect not. How often it is that we can obey the prompting of God’ Spirit and stand back amazed at the results! Who knows what God will do when we took the first step.
So take that first step with God! If you feel God prompting you in some particular way – then step out. God is a mighty God. He has mighty acts to perform, and he often performs them with us. Also, allow you devotion to Christ to become costly. Do things for Jesus – not the church, yourself, or even the poor. Yes these things will follow, but let your motivation be Jesus.
One unnamed woman did just that two thousand years ago, and today her actions are once more being told “in memory of her”.