Matthew 26:6-16 (ESV)
6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” 14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Jesus spent time during the last few days of his life in a town called Bethany. One night while he was enjoying a meal with friends, Mary, his follower, poured very expensive oil on his head. The other disciples strongly objected to this act. They accused Mary of doing something foolish, since the perfume was worth an entire year’s wage. They told her she could have sold it and given the money to help the poor. But Jesus opposed their objections and let them know they would always have opportunities to help the poor. But he would not be with them much longer, so what she did was right. In the culture at that time, it was normal for a Jewish host to provide oil for his guests’ heads. The oil used for anointing would have been fairly cheap, but the more honored the guest, the more expensive the oil. If a dignitary or even a king were coming for dinner, the best oil possible would be used. Mary realized things about Jesus the others may have missed. She knew Jesus was the Messiah—the Anointed One—and the King, and she knew that his time with them was coming to a close. So Mary held back nothing and gave her very best to Jesus. The disciples just didn’t get it. They were poor and lived humbly, and so had the Lord. Why waste so much money on a one-time anointing? This apparent excess shocked and outraged them.
Jesus never instructed his followers to neglect the poor. But in this instance, he did begin to reveal to them that in a few days he would die a death designed for a criminal, and his body would not be properly anointed. It seems that Mary understood and may have had more insight into what Jesus taught his followers up to this point, and she responded by giving generously before his departure. What about you? What is Jesus calling you to give him? Is he asking you to be generous in response to his love for you? Do you find yourself hesitating to do what his Spirit is prompting you to do because you fear what others may say or think? Even if it seems extravagant, do exactly what the Scripture and the Spirit are calling you to do for the Lord today. Mary’s act became her memorial and should remind us that we will never regret what we give to Jesus.