The beautiful part about the Gospels, is that each author shares a different perspective. It’s the same truth, but told from a different viewpoint. The story of a woman anointing Jesus’ head with perfume is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and John. In this devotional, I will be focusing on the account recorded in Matthew 26:6-13.
Matthew begins the passage with focusing on where Jesus was when the anointing of his head happened- in the home of a previous leper. The point of the passage isn’t found in the first sentence, but I don’t want us to miss this point: Jesus spent time with people despite their past illnesses, mistakes, or statuses. Simon was a leper, an outcast of society. Yet, this wasn’t uncommon for Jesus to be sharing a meal with someone deemed “unclean” by society. Praise the Lord that we can all enter into his presence, despite our past mistakes!
While Jesus was sharing a meal with Simon and his disciples, a woman came in, with this beautiful jar full of expensive perfume and proceeded to pour it over Jesus’ head. In the account of Matthew, it doesn’t specify whether there was an interaction between the woman and Jesus before she started pouring ointment on his head. Every time I read this, I just think about how uncomfortable I would be if a woman walked into a friend’s house while I was there and poured an expensive perfume on my head. I would probably stop her and maybe ask her what on earth she was thinking. Luckily, this is a different time and culture and this act performed by the woman was significant in the eyes of Jesus and those observing this take place.
In that day and age, to have perfume poured over your head was a sign of the highest respect. This woman was saying that nothing was too valuable or too good to give Jesus. As we will discuss in a moment, she could have used this for many other things; yet she decided to give Jesus the best she had to offer.
When the disciples saw this, in my translation, it says that they were “indignant.” They were so annoyed and angry at this act because they saw it as unfair treatment. Their immediate response was that the perform could have been sold at a very high price and that money could have been used for the poor!
If I was in this room and heard the disciples say this to Jesus, I’m sure I would have felt extremely uncomfortable. It would have been one of those “pin-drop” moments that I would have avoided at all costs. Yet, instead of Jesus rebuking his disciples, he steers their thoughts in the right direction. He tells them that “the poor will always be among you, but you will not always have me.”
Jesus wasn’t saying to neglect the poor. In Deuteronomy 15, the Bible talks about what it looks like to watch out for the poor in needy. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus talks about the physically poor as well as the spiritually poor. So, if we look at this passage and say, “Jesus was a narcissist that didn’t care about the poor and only cared about his treatment,” then we have missed Jesus’ message about caring for the poor and needy. Instead, Jesus wanted the disciples to see a bigger picture and mission at hand- something bigger than even caring for the poor.
Jesus first wanted the disciples to see who he was and how he is the one the brings radical transformation. They were so focused on what they should be doing rather than focusing on who they were with. They were with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and lost sight of paying attention to Jesus.
Isn’t it true in our own lives that we tend to focus on what we should be doing before we focus on who Jesus is? We give our best gifts, talents, abilities, etc. to good things before we give them to Jesus. Can you imagine what would take place if we set our eyes on Christ first, gave him our absolute best and then let him use those things to change the world? You see, Jesus doesn’t need us, but he wants us. He wants our best because he’s going to blow our minds with how he’s going to use that to further his Kingdom on this earth. He will give us a purpose in serving the poor. He will give us a purpose in dealing with sticky political situations. He will give us purpose in dealing with racial injustices. He will give us purpose in helping our neighbors. As Christians, these are a few of the things we should be giving ourselves to, but are we giving our best to Christ first and trusting him to use them?
I hope you take time to read over this passage and allow the Lord to speak to you leading up to this time of celebration. This woman gave Jesus her best in preparation for his burial. My prayer for Northstar and believers around the world, is that we would be so quick to give Jesus our best and allow him to use our best to be the church.
Questions to consider:
- What were your initial thoughts when Jesus responded the way he did?
- Why do you think Jesus said that this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed?
- How can you prepare your heart this week by giving Jesus your best?
- How does giving our best to Jesus give us a heart for serving the poor?