Today’s Scripture: Mark 14: 1-9
It was now two days before Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law were still looking for an opportunity to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 “But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot.”
3 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head.
4 Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. 5 “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly.
6 But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? 7 You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”
There is a lot we could focus on in this passage, but I thought we’d take a special look at “some of those at the table”. Who were these people? Well you could make the argument that they were Jesus’ disciples. There were probably others around the table, but the disciples were for sure there. In fact, Matthew tells this same story and explicitly tells us it’s the disciples that were indignant.
How can that be? They have been with Jesus all this time now. He is about to be murdered. And yet, they still do not know Jesus’ heart. I think it must have been a little embarrassing to remember this event after the resurrection. In fact, Luke and John also tell the story but in Luke the indignant person is a pharisee named Simon. And in John that person is Judas Iscariot. I guess John thought Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus, so why not just pile on? No, I’m pretty sure it was a disciple who became upset at this woman’s show of devotion and adoration.
The sad thing is I would most likely have acted like the disciples rather than the woman. I’m sure I would have been the one thinking about how wasteful it is to pour that perfume on Jesus. Think of what could have been done with the money! That’s what happens when we allow ourselves to be trapped in the small thinking of the immediate moment.
Jesus was not thinking small. His mind was on what was about to happen – the earth-shattering thing that was about to happen. This woman was not thinking small either. Who knows how long she saved to get this perfume? Who knows how she even GOT the money (Luke tells us she was a woman of “ill repute”.) And really, couldn’t she have just given it to the disciples for them to sell?
No, she had the bigger picture in mind. Sure, it looked like a waste. And yes, many people could have been fed. But Jesus is about to die, and this woman honored him.
Will we honor Jesus today? Or will we be stuck in the small? We will rejoice in the person of Jesus or will we be indignant about violations of protocol that we witness?
God forgive our tendency to focus on the small and ignore the larger picture of what you are trying to do in the world. Help us to recognize opportunities to “pour our perfume”. Remind us to seek your guidance in all things – especially when we find ourselves wanting to be indignant.