Matthew 26:6-13 (Jesus anointed at Bethany)
The bold and courageous devotion that a woman showed just a few days before Jesus’ death is to be remembered and admired alongside the gospel of salvation. They go hand in hand. It’s a glimpse in to a covenant relationship. That’s what Jesus is saying. It’s incredibly symbolic and highly significant, so what is it that is so precious here?
Here we have Jesus and close friends resting around the table in the afternoon, maybe in that lull after lunch, staying in the cool of the house.
John identifies the woman as Mary, Martha and Lazarus’s sister, but here she is left anonymous. Jesus knew her, it doesn’t matter that we don’t. She appears with the alabaster jar in her hands. It contains perfumed anointing oil that is worth nearly a year’s worth of wages. It has been inherited, passed down from generation to generation, symbolising the wealth and longevity of that family. The jar was sealed closed so the long neck of the jar had to be broken and the oil to be used on just one occasion.
She knew the significance of this oil and yet behind closed doors while they were resting together, she walked straight up to the Messiah and poured it all out for Jesus, she anointed his head with it.
Why? How could she do it? Because she knew he was worth it. Her eyes were open to the truth of who he was and what he said and showed.
She stepped over the threshold in the face of anger and great offense in that culture. In those days, the act of anointing a head with oil would have been for a priest or prophet to do in the coronation ceremony of a king for example. Here we have an unnamed woman in the nontraditional position of a high priest.
You can imagine her heart pounding as she walked towards him, knowing that those around her were likely to be enraged, but her fear of God was so pure and strong that she cared more about what God thought of her than the others.
They responded among themselves: “Why this waste?”
She was prepared to ‘waste’ what was profound to her. To them, it was foolish, to him it was amazing.
He responded: “Why trouble the woman? She’s done a beautiful thing to me.”
They held her in the judgement seat until Jesus intervened and broke up the gossip and passive aggression that was going on on the other side of the table and he took her straight out of that seat and he affirmed her straight away because that’s what he’s like. He shielded her with his favour in that moment as David wrote in Psalm 5.
God’s intention is to bring us back to the place of intimacy that we first saw in Eden. She is declaring exactly that, anointing his head with her oil: “All I have is yours. All I am I give to you”.
This is courageous intimacy and she is full on. A few days later, Jesus poured out his life for her, for you. He is full on. What she did gives us a picture of our covenant relationship:
The way you devote yourself and what you have and the way you express your worship to Jesus looks different to the person beside you. Don’t worry about them. He doesn’t see you as a waste and he doesn’t see what you give as a waste either, but instead it is beautiful in the eyes of the King. I know because he says so.
He wants you, all of you, because he loves you, all of you. There is nothing that needs to get in the way of your devotion to him. No circumstance, nothing in your past, no tradition, not what seems logical and wise in the world’s eyes.
He gave his all, boldly, so we get to do the same.
He saw what she did as beautiful and he said that it will be admired whenever the gospel of salvation was proclaimed in the whole earth.
Are your eyes open like hers to know his worth, over what you deem to be of great value?
Do you know that what you give to him is not wasted on him?
Are you bold in your expression of worship?
Let your eyes be opened to see and ears be opened to hear this truth now in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Written by Steph Hilton-Turvey