Jesus Anointed at Bethany
1Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. 2“But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.”
3While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
4Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
6“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
10Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
First Things First
With this passage, I find myself agreeing with the disciples in some way, don’t you? Maybe that perfume could have been sold for $100,000, and would have fed 2000 people! Wouldn’t that have been a better usage of money and resources? Wouldn’t Jesus have wanted it that way?…
The answer is no.
Yes, combatting poverty is always good. Yes, guarding against wastefulness is always good. But above both of these moral values is the worship of God, which is the greatest good of all. Sometimes we get too convinced by the world’s understanding of morality, too swayed by their priorities. The problem with this is that they don’t understand that the worship of God is the first good that we pursue with all our heart and soul and body.
But someone might ask, “What about poverty? Does that mean that God doesn’t care about the poor?” Of course not! The problem with that question is that it does not understand that all other Godly behavior, including the fight against poverty and wastefulness, overflows out of our worship of God! In fact, our fight against these evils is yet ANOTHER form of worship! And this is what Jesus alludes to in verse 9, how this story of humble worship will be used in the proclamation of the gospel to the world!
The worship of God fuels our fire in the pursuit of the things of God, and the issues which are on his heart. Without worship and experiencing his deep love, our “moral” actions are empty and opinionated and judgmental. But after experiencing the intimacy of God, our actions on behalf of the poor and broken are compassionate and joyful and restorative.
I know that this is a difficult mentality to really believe and live out, primarily because popular culture is now much more vocal about morality and justice issues, and it seems like every celebrity is now a humanitarian. It can be easy to fall into the world’s understanding of what is GOOD, partially because their understanding of GOOD is partially derived from what the Bible has been saying. But it is still important to recognize that while there is some similarity between the two, there are also some profound differences. Don’t let the world’s understanding of good and pure and holy inform your understanding – there are higher things, and greater goods out there than the world is aware of.
1. This woman’s form of worship and devotion was to break the alabaster jar of nard onto Jesus’ feet – in your life and context, how can you worship God extravagantly?
2. How do you think worship can enhance all the other moral and compassionate issues we pursue?
3. What is one difference between your understanding of what is good and right, and what the world understands to be good and right?