It was a bold idea really,
to waltz into the room of men kibitzing and dining around a dinner table and pour perfume all over Jesus.
Women weren’t really allowed to fraternize with the men and they rarely went out in public without supervision. The ones who tried approached the table with bad reputations...or left with them anyway.
But for some reason, this woman didn’t seem to care. Throwing caution to the wind, she approaches Jesus anyway. An anointing like this one would have been reserved for kings and priests and she pours perfume all over Jesus’ head like it’s a crown.
That would have been a bold enough statement to be sure, to crown Jesus as King. But bolder still, she was anointing him as Messiah, which means “anointed one.” In her actions, she was declaring that this Jesus was the One they’d been waiting for all these years, a Messiah to save them.
The Messiah’s motley crew objects.
Jesus had just finished telling them to care for the naked and needy. Sold, this perfume certainly could have clothed and fed quite a few. And maybe just to rub a little brown on his nose for once, they asked, “Jesus, for what this waste?! Shouldn’t we sell this so we can do what you just told us to do?”
They kvetch and complain, possibly too self-righteous to see the point, or maybe straight-up embarrassed she’d thought of it first. But either way, they’ve missed the message; the gift served a greater purpose than they’d realized, as Jesus did himself.
This anointing wasn’t merely a gift for a King, an anointing of a Priest, or a declaration of the Messiah, although it was those things too. More than anything, it was preparation for a burial. The woman was embalming him.
The disciples had picked up on the King part. They probably even got the Priest part. And the Messiah part? They were pretty sure they got that too. But for most of their ministry, they’d thought that following the Messiah around had carried the promise that one day, they’d be dining in king’s quarters with a coronated King Jesus, the mighty warrior who’d overthrown the Roman oppressors. Bless their hearts.
This was perfume poured out extravagantly for Jesus, the long-awaited anointed Christ who, in just a few days, would pour out his own life extravagantly. In these final days leading to his self-sacrifice on the cross, Jesus did not ask “for what” he would lavish his life; instead, his life and death indicate “for whom” he would pour it out, a people undeserving of such an extravagant gift.
The disciples didn’t get it, and in my own way, I know I question Jesus just like they did.
Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus quotes the prophets, specifically Isaiah, to explain why he has come. He tells them he’s been “anointed by the Sovereign Lord to preach good news to the poor. Though Jesus clearly cares for physical food, clothing, and provisions of the poor, this Good News is sustenance of a different sort. And it is this Good News - his broken body and his shed blood - that in these final moments, Jesus has been anointed to live and to preach as Lord and Savior of the whole world.
In the woman’s gift, she has pointed to the greatest gift of all and in her gratitude, nothing was wasted.
Pastor Brynn Harrington
What extravagance can you spend on Jesus? What extravagance of Christ’s are you grateful for today?
Write out twenty things you can give thanks to God for today. If possible, refrain from generalities like, “I’m thankful for my job. I’m thankful for my parents.” Instead, be specific. What about your job are you thankful? What about your parents are you grateful? Etc.
For just a few moments today, offer some time that you might think could be spent doing something “productive” and instead lavish some time or talent or creativity on Jesus. Write a poem. Paint a picture. Give to a charitable contribution to a worthy cause over and above your typical generosity.