A Beautiful Act
1. Today's passage gives an account of a single deed that some person did to Jesus. This is what Jesus had to say in regard to what that person did. "I declare to you. Every where through out the world, where ever the gospel is proclaimed, what this person did will be told as a memorial with it," (verse thirteen). It came to pass just as the Lord so said it would. What [she] did has been told even as far as [our] Far Eastern island country. I can't help but state how so amazing this is. [What happened] didn't happen in the capital city of Jerusalem. [What happened] wasn't even a large enough incident to rock [any] society. It can hardly be deemed newsworthy for telling through out the world. But despite this, this story has reached right into our laps. So, what meaning might this have for us so far removed by time and space from what that person has done?
An Acceptable Service
2. Let's start by looking at verses six and [seven]. "Now, when Jesus was at the home of a man [named] Simon who had a severe skin disease, a certain woman came up to him carrying an alabaster jar with extremely expensive perfumed oil inside, and she poured the perfume over Jesus' head as he sat at dinner," (verses six and seven).
3. Try to imagine the scene. It was dinner time. A woman comes in carrying a jar of perfume, all of a sudden she pours the perfume over Jesus' head. In The Gospel Of Mark, it has that "... carrying an alabaster jar with nard oiled perfume in it, she broke it and poured the oil over the head of Jesus," (Mark 14:3). She didn't just pour out a little drip by drip. She broke the jar and poured all of the oil that was in it [over him]. It's easy to picture what kind of attention this would draw. [As] Jesus was eating dinner, the hair on his head, his beard, and his clothes were covered all over with perfumed oil. The oil was even dripping into his dinner. In the first place, after the oil all poured off his head, it wasn't useful after that. The smell of perfumed oil filled the whole room up to the point of choking [everybody], and it was no longer a place for dinner. It was an unpleasant experience for both Jesus and the people around him.
4. Why on earth did [she] do such a rash thing? In fact, Matthew doesn't even add any explanation as to who this was or why [she] did it. The statement of Jesus is recorded that "[she] anointed my body with the perfumed oil and made burial preparations for me." But, that [most likely] wasn't her original intention because normally you would anoint and bury a person who was dead and you would not anoint and bury a person who was alive. In conclusion, we'll never come to know why she had come up with such a thing to do.
5. That being said, there is still something obvious to be said. The perfume was expensive. She poured it all out and gave [it all] to Jesus. I'm sure we can say one thing for sure as far as that goes, which is, she loved Jesus. Say what you want but her act was definitely an expression of her total love.
6. But, whatever her intentions were, it was totally off the wall to do. There was no way that some rightful negative reactions would not come up against her bizarre behavior. Look at verse eight. "When the disciples saw this, they became angry and said, 'Why did you use this so wastefully? You could have sold it for a lot and donated it to the poor!'," (verses eight and nine).
7. The disciples were not unreasonable in what they said. Any way you look at this, it will look wasteful. In Mark's Gospel, the approximate price of the oil is shown. The people said, "You could have sold this oil for more than three hundred denarii and donated it to the poor," (Mark 14:5). Taking it as three hundred denarii, for the average laborer that would be the cost of labor for one year. Put in money now, it would be about twenty to thirty thousand dollars. But that was drained away in an instant. What's more, when viewed from an objective stance, even for Jesus and those there with him, it was totally bizarre and nothing but bizarre. Earlier I mentioned that this was an expression of her full love [for the Lord]. But, if [she] were showing love, she could have had many other methods for caring in a richer deeper way. Were we there at that place, we would have said the same thing as the disciples and we would have corrected her for that, too.
8. But, surprisingly, Jesus's statement is totally different from those there with him. Please note verse ten. "Why are you troubling her? She did a good thing to me," (verse ten). Can't you just imagine this scene in your mind's eye? I imagine him not even wiping his head all covered over with [the goo] and it dripping globs of oil from off the hair of his head and from his beard, but Jesus there holding a straight undisturbed face, saying, "Wasn't that nice? Why are you going to bother her for that? She did a good thing to me." The phrase "this good thing" could be "this beautiful thing" when translated in sentences elsewhere. The Lord described her act as "beautiful." He accepted it as a beautiful deed [done to him].
9. Now, we must pay attention to the fact that the text doesn't say anything here that she had a love that was pure or a perfect love. Since the oil was so expensive, automatically we take it for granted that it must have been a love for Jesus that was pure and beautiful [because] she poured it upon him without sparing any of it. We thereby end up beautifying the character we find in the scripture, and because of that beauty [we see] in her heart, we easily interpret that the Lord accepts her actions as "beautiful." However, the main thing here is not the size of the sacrifice that she paid or even the purity of her motives. That's not the main thing, but rather the point that "Jesus accepted her actions" is the main thing.
10. When viewed objectively, after all, her act was but dumb and eccentric. Was her love pure? We could make such a claim, I suppose. But, if we change the way we look at it, we could also say that yes, it was a childish looking-out-for-number-one love, in which her feelings had taken over and they were inconsiderate of her company.
11. Okay, it's not our job to bring complaints about others. I would think the same thing [could be said] with us. We say, "it's for Christ." Hold it, we don't just say it, we may even do something really believing in our hearts that "it's for Christ." But, the way Christ sees it, what we might be doing is totally off the mark. I just wonder how many times it's been when it was just our own feelings taking over [and we were] careless in understanding the will of Christ. What kind of worship and ministry are we offering him? We may plan for it with all we got and we may intend to offer up a "very nice" worship unto him with pure hearts. But, in truth, we have poured oil over Christ's head and may have just slimed him with gooey guck.
12. But, we encounter a surprising statement from the Lord here [regarding us the way we are]. "Why are you troubling her over it? She did a good thing to me." We find here the figure of Christ joyfully accepting the foolish service of [another] individual again. Because of his grace, Christ calls it "good" or "beautiful." Therein lies the root to [why] we can serve Christ.
As Preparation For Christ's Burial
13. I would like for us to remember another thing. Jesus did not only say about what she did that "She did a good thing to me," but he also went on to say this: "The poor will always be with you, but I will not always be here with you. She has anointed my body with oil and has made preparations for burying me. I declare to you. Every where through out the world, where ever the gospel is proclaimed, what this person did will be told as a memorial with it," (verses eleven through thirteen).
14. Just before what happened here, Jesus gave an advanced notice that the time when he would be crucified was close. "As you yourselves know, in two days is the Passover Festival. The son of man will be handed over in order to be crucified," (verse two). Here again the Lord is stating that "I will not always be with you." Jesus was looking straight out at the cross upon which he would hang. All the words the Lord spoke here are words he said all the while pondering his death on the cross. As a man soon to die by crucifixion, the Lord accepted the ministry of this woman.
15. As I touched upon before, in her [level of] awareness, there must not have been even a trace in her mind about preparing for a burial. But, what the Lord said was right. Except for her, nobody was there ready to daub the oil on the Lord's body at the end because it was the day before the Sabbath when Jesus was given the death penalty, and he was taken down with great haste before the sun set, and he was buried without being anointed with oil and just wrapped in a linen cloth. After the Sabbath drew to a close, then when the ladies came to the tomb with the spices, the Lord had already risen from the dead and wasn't there.
16. Therefore, the service of this woman really was a preparation of Jesus indeed. As such a service [to him], her act was placed within [a context of] a relationship to Jesus. It was not because she had superior insight. In taking part in [something] unbeknownst to her, what she did was used by the grace of God alone as a prep for the death of Christ. It was used to point to the salvation that was coming into fulfillment there and with the Lord's cross. Then, because of that act [of hers], the Lord also said, "I declare to you. Every where through out the world, where ever the gospel is proclaimed, what this person did will be told as a memorial with it."
17. And what she did certainly has been told even in far away lands. This act of hers which has thus been told and passed on to others shines forth as a beautiful deed now pointing out the cross of the Lord to us. And at the same time, her act is giving us today the hope that our service will be accepted by the Lord and can be used as [a vehicle] to point to the salvation in the Lord's cross.