While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with a jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head . . .
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” (Matt 26:6-8)
. . . She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. . . . And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you . . . But you will not always have me. She did what she could . . . .” (Mark 14:3-8)
The situation was an eye-popper for the disciples. Jesus had consistently stressed the need to help the poor, and here this woman was pouring wildly expensive perfume on His head. Surely any sane person could see that it could have been sold — for a year’s wages at that — and the money given to those in dire need. What was she thinking? They didn’t hesitate to tell her exactly what they thought.
They must have been really taken aback by Jesus’ reaction. Far from considering her sacrifice a waste, He called it beautiful. Instead of using the opportunity to teach her, He was teaching them. But what was the lesson?
The disciples thought they could have managed the woman’s sacrifice much more appropriately than she did. They saw her act as a total waste of money, an unnecessarily extravagant gesture. But Jesus knew it was far more than a gesture: it was an act of pure devotion, of giving unreservedly the very best she had.
Most ordinary women of the day would have kept the pure nard, which may well have been an inheritance, as a financial safeguard. But by her act, this woman was affirming that Jesus was her security, her inheritance; she was anointing Him as her King. All of her life would now flow out of her devotion to Him, which was worth infinitely more than money could ever buy.
Jesus wanted His disciples to understand this: it’s never a waste to pour out everything you have for Jesus. There are many things that are important to do; but the most vital thing is to put devotion to Jesus first. Out of that position, He can guide where, when and how we can use our resources most effectively to do His work.
“She did what she could,” Jesus said. Soon, she would do immeasurably more: all that she could do through, and for, Jesus. The perfume would fad; the fragrance of pure devotion to Jesus never would. “She did what she could.” What a glorious epitaph that would be for every believer!