Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:6-13 ESV)
There are two perspectives at work here: the woman’s and the disciples’. From the disciples’ perspective, this woman’s pouring out of this very expensive jar of perfume, probably a family heirloom (worth a year or more of wages), is absurd. Anointing someone’s head with a touch of oil is the norm for welcoming them into your home. But this is neither this woman’s home and this is not a touch of oil. Perhaps this is what the disciples thought the woman was meaning and so they see great waste. But Jesus explains that her actions are very different from this. She is not anointing him as a guest in the house but anointing him for his burial. It seems that this woman is the first to hear and understand Jesus’ words about being “delivered to be crucified.” The disciples’ were those told this information but it certainly didn’t fit their expectations for a messiah so they didn’t take Jesus literally. But this woman knew. John names the woman as Mary, Lazarus’s sister. Lazarus was another man the Jews wanted to kill because he was drawing attention to Jesus’ miraculous works. Perhaps because Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead Mary knew that Jesus made himself a target for crucifixion. As a result, she heard Jesus’ speak of his impending crucifixion and took him at his word. She knew the cost of his grace toward them and it moved her to this beautiful act of devotion. She, above all others present, understood that Jesus had to die, as he said. She knew that it was the price that Jesus was intent on paying for grace to flow to them!
Lord, my heart is yours. You have won it with your love displayed in your determination to go to the cross for me! My sin required it, my heart needed it. Show me how I might give my best to you.