Day 34 - A Beautiful Waste

Day 34 - A Beautiful Waste

Written by: Katelyn Boyd

Matthew 26:6-13
6 “Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. 7 While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.
8 The disciples were indignant when they saw this. ‘What a waste!’ they said. 9 ‘It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.’
10 But Jesus, aware of this, replied, ‘Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? 11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. 12 She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.’”

I hate to see anything go to waste. This is due largely in part to my grandmother, who was born during the Great Depression, and who “saved” everything, right down to every plastic grocery bag she ever used, “just in case we might need it again.” I’m like her–I save every crayon and craft supply, every book I’ve ever bought, and extra condiments that come in restaurant to-go orders. This is why I always indulge in a few extra chicken nuggets at Chick-fil-A, because I can’t stand for the ones my kids leave on their plates to go into the trash (ok, it’s only one of the reasons). In our passage today, we see a sacrificial act of love and devotion bestowed upon Jesus and two differing opinions of it– that of the religious leaders of His day and the perspective of Jesus Himself. One perspective calls it a waste, the other calls it beautiful. 
Jesus has just finished teaching his disciples about the end of the age, and reminds his disciples at the beginning of this chapter that the Passover is only 2 days away and that he will be handed over to be crucified (v. 2), knowing that the religious leaders were already plotting his death (v. 3-5). Then, while Jesus is gathered in the home of Simon, a man who had previously been a leper, and possibly healed by Jesus himself, a woman makes her way into the gathering and anoints Jesus’ head with very expensive perfume. Some scholars believe that this scene is the same one described in Mark 14 and also possibly John 12, where Mary, the sister of Lazarus, is named as the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet, while others believe that this is an entirely different occurrence. Either way, there is much for us to learn from both this woman’s posture and her presentation: She comes to Jesus humbly and she gives to Jesus wholly. There is no mention of this woman approaching Jesus for any reason other than to honor Him; if she engages in a conversation with him at all, it is not mentioned in Scripture. She comes not to make much of herself, but to make much of Jesus. She anoints his head, and this picture had to be reminiscent for the Jewish audience of the anointing ritual for Israelite kings and Jewish priests, leaders who were set apart by God and the mantle of their leadership signified by anointing their heads with oil. She was not only signifying Jesus’ kingship as Messiah, but her actions also foreshadow Jesus’ death. When Jesus chastises this woman’s critics–his disciples–in verse 12, he acknowledges that she has done this to “prepare me for burial.” Whether she was aware of this additional symbolism, we don’t know, but we see that she was singularly focused on honoring Jesus; she humbly prized Jesus more than her own reputation, more than propriety or societal norms, and more than the incredibly valuable perfume she poured out. 

This woman gave what may very well have been her greatest earthly treasure to Jesus. This passage speaks of the “alabaster jar of very expensive perfume” that she used to anoint Jesus’ head; this jar or flask would have been one made of a beautiful white stone that resembles marble and most likely had no stopper or lid. That meant that in order to get the perfume out of the jar or flask, it had to be broken. And once you broke the jar open, that was it; the perfume was used up. During this time in history, people didn’t normally use perfume, they just kept it for its great value. Or, they used it on special occasions, such as a wedding (or in preparing a body for burial), so it would have been seen as silly or irresponsible at best, and wasteful at worst, for this woman to have walked into the assembly and poured the whole contents of this vessel onto Jesus’ head. But, the woman gave the whole of her greatest treasure to Jesus; He was more precious to her than the most priceless perfume. She came to Jesus humbly and gave to Him wholly, and her sacrifice was deemed wasteful to the disciples, who suggested it should’ve been sold and the price used to care for the poor (verses 8 and 9). But, Jesus deemed this woman’s extravagant love and incredible sacrifice to be beautiful (v. 10), something that would be told “wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world.” (v. 13). The disciples’ could only see the physical–the broken jar of perfume and stacks of coins it was worth–and Jesus saw the spiritual–a humble heart that loved Him, honored Him as King and held nothing back from Him. 

The woman in this passage honored Jesus by coming to him humbly and giving to him fully, and He called what she did for Him beautiful, though others saw it as a waste. So often, we can become distracted by the perspective of the world, the perspective that says, to live with reckless abandon in pursuit of Jesus is unwise, crazy: it’s a waste of your wealth to give generously to the mission of the Gospel and the local and global church, it’s a waste of your talent to invest at a job or role you feel called to when you could be making so much more money somewhere else, it’s a waste of your future to follow Jesus wholeheartedly wherever He leads, even if it flies in the face of what the world says is relational, financial, emotional, academic or logical wisdom. Charles Spurgeon wrote “Is anything wasted which is all for Jesus? It might rather seem as if all would be wasted which was not given to him.” What do you need to give to Jesus? Where is the Lord asking you to be obedient to Him? How do you need to humble yourself in order to honor Him? Maybe you need to surrender your plans or expectations for the future, your finances, a relationship, your time and talents, in order to step out in faith to honor Him with your whole-hearted obedience. Spend time today in prayer identifying the treasures the Lord has given you and asking Him how he would have you surrender those–to pour them out in worship–to Him to do with them whatever He so chooses. 

Jesus, thank you for the treasures you have given me; You are the Giver of all good gifts. Show me how I can use the things I treasure the most to honor you the most. There is nothing I have that I treasure more than You, and there is nothing that I have that I am not willing to pour out to you. Show me how to give to you humbly and wholly, all that I have, with all that I am, for all of my days. In Jesus’ Name, Amen