6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 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. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
What a waste. What a terrible waste. The disciple’s who surround Jesus experience a brief lapse in their judgement. Their vision gets clouded for a moment. ‘That woman, anointing Jesus with expensive perfume. In the middle of dinner, in front of everyone. What a waste.’ Improper, out of line and a total misappropriation of resources. Jesus responds: ‘Leave the woman alone.’ ‘It’s a beautiful thing’ and ‘It’s my burial preparation.’ The whole scenario has a certain strangeness about it, at least for those that don’t know the end of the story. We read. We know. Our vision isn’t clouded. Imagine the feeling that these disciples would have felt when they first remembered this story with hindsight after everything that Jesus had done by the very end. Their view of that woman and the value of that perfume would have profoundly changed, but at the time of the story, no one else knew it, only she did. She saw Jesus, she visited Jesus, she poured out the precious perfume onto him, giving the most valuable of all things that she had. The disciples would no doubt do the same one day. That is: give everything, give the most precious things for Jesus.
This woman’s story is told “wherever this gospel is preached” (verse 13). This woman saw Jesus clearly before anyone else did. She was the first and she set the tone for discipleship that has been copied ever since. Those that see Jesus for who he really is, they give the most precious and the most valuable of what they have. They see Jesus and anoint him in devotion and worship and never count the cost.
Jesus. What is it for me to come to you and anoint you with perfume? What might it mean for me to worship you and be wholly devoted you? May I follow you, in your ways and in your pattern. I want to see you clearly all my life. Amen.
Written by Sam Stewart