While [Jesus] was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said.
Matthew 26:7-8, NLT*
A variant of this story is found in all four Gospels**, and I usually think of the one where Judas complained about the money and John says it was because he used to steal from the money pouch.
What catches me here is that all the disciples are indignant about it. Jesus has been telling them He’s going to die, and Matthew actually shows them trying to figure it out a bit. Of course they’re not getting it—the human brain could never conceive of a plan on the scale of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection.
The disciples were good men, devoted to Jesus and learning His ways. Giving to the poor was important. They understood that, even if they didn’t get the “coming death” part.
They were so caught up in “the plan” as they knew it that they missed another thread in God’s tapestry. God had a different assignment for this woman on this day, and they would have blocked it by “leaning on their own understanding.”
Anointing Jesus this way expressed her love and gratitude, but it was also a visual prophecy like so many in the Old Testament. She demonstrated what was to come.
And I think her tender gesture blessed Jesus’ heart. He knew what was ahead, and although He didn’t show any sign of strain about it until the struggle in the garden, I’ve wondered how He focused on the now without being paralyzed by the yet-to-come.
God our Father, Master Artist, Your work is detailed beyond our imagining. Help us listen closely to know Your leading, and help us obey with willing hearts. Give us courage when what You ask is different from others’ expectations. And give us grace to recognize Your leading in others’ lives when it doesn’t look the same as the way You work in us. Thank You for the whole picture, which only You can see. We will trust Your ways.
Don Francisco’s song, “Beautiful to Me,” tells the story as found in Luke’s Gospel. I love how he brings stories like this to life.
*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
**I hadn’t realized there were two women who had a part in anointing Jesus for his burial. Both took place in Bethany around the same time, but this one’s in the house of Simon, a former leper, and the woman isn’t named. The other is in the house of Lazarus and it’s his sister, Mary. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, this woman anoints His head [Luke says she anointed Jesus’ feet, and that may be a third woman but the host is still named Simon (the Pharisee).] Some would say it’s all one event, but while I know a lot of Scripture needs a non-literal interpretation, I view the actual events as historical. Clearly, some of them were (eg. the crucifixion). I don’t dare pick and choose. This is my interpretation, and I respect yours whether or not it’s the same. I’m not here for argument or debate, just to share what God’s teaching me. In this case, the take-away is the same whether there was one anointing or more. ~JS.