Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.”
— MARK 14:4–5
Before Jesus went to the cross, the religious leaders plotted his death, and Judas planned his betrayal. An unnamed woman broke an expensive glass bottle and poured a precious anointment on Jesus’ head, filling the room with fragrance to honour the Messiah.
Some of his disciples were outraged by the disruption and the waste: ‘A year’s wages poured out for nothing!’ They began berating this uninvited guest for pressing her way into the middle of their gathering. Her action was offensive to those with an eye for financial responsibility and a more inhibited idea of how to love Jesus. They missed an important moment.
Jesus stopped them from further shaming her extravagant devotion. He understood the meaning behind her action and told them to leave her alone. This was not wasteful but rather a beautiful thing. Her act of devotion was a final expression of tenderness before Judas betrayed him. This anointing must have been precious to Jesus, as he knew he was soon to experience lashes, beatings, a crown of thorns and nails driven into his hands and feet.
She gave all she had, serving Jesus when others did not. She recognized who Jesus was, and she was willing to take a great risk to demonstrate her love for him.
Standing in contrast to those who plotted and betrayed, and to disciples who did not understand, this woman will be remembered for her so-called “wasteful” act of devotion. Her legacy is the declaration of the importance of love, kindness and care for others, which worship Jesus.
FURTHER SCRIPTURE REFLECTION: MARK 14:4–11
1. Our hearts may struggle to identify with this woman and her brash devotion in the midst of sensible indifference and betrayal. Can we bring our mediocrity to Jesus and ask him for the courage to love as she did?
2. What am I willing to risk to worship Jesus? Reputation? Finances? Popularity?
Mardi Dolfo-Smith is the Discipleship Pastor of North Shore Alliance Church. She is married to Toni, and they have four “almost adult” children.
Image: Worlds most expensive perfume: Clive Christian Imperial Majesty ($215,000)