It was a beautiful thing. An unknown woman brings a jar of very expensive perfume and breaks it over Jesus’ head. The Lord of the Universe, now dripping with perfume commends her, and the woman is praised in the presence of Jesus and his disciples.
Though the matter simply could have ended there, Jesus went on. He wanted to teach us something about the deeper beauties of what this woman did. She had prepared Jesus for his baptism. She had anointed him for the death-shattering task he would face in just three days. In her gift of love, this woman prepared the Godman, the Son of the Living God, for the tomb. A tomb that would try to hold him, but wouldn’t. A tomb that would try to claim him, but couldn’t.
This lowly woman was a second-class citizen in a forgotten Roman occupied territory. There was no earthly reason for anyone to commend her, let alone listen to her. And yet this woman stood in the gap for the prophets of old. It wasn’t Samuel who came with his oil to anoint this King of Kings. It wasn’t the chief priests or the wisest of the pharisees who came to anoint the Messiah. Instead, a humble woman came in her love for Jesus and broke over his head what was probably her most precious earthly possession.
The woman did what couldn’t have been done later. After his death, Jesus’ body would be spirited from the cross and prepared for a hasty burial. There was no time for the purchase and preparation of the spices that were customary before burial – that would have to wait for another two days on account of Jesus dying on the verge of the Sabbath. But there was time now to prepare him now, and whether or not she fully realized what she was doing for him, the generous woman drenched Jesus in perfume out of the joy of her heart and the gratefulness of her soul.
The disciples became angry. Surprised by the selfless act, their first concern was over the purchase price of what was sacrificed, rather than the act itself. This woman had freely poured out her treasure on Jesus. From a heart of faith she anointed his head with oil. Yet the disciples judged her with a critical eye. Using the poor as cover, they hid what really offended them. What they were really angry about was the excess of her sacrifice and that she had emptied all of it on Jesus. Was it really necessary to break the whole flask over him? Wouldn’t a few drops have filled the room with the fragrance just as well? Wouldn’t it have been better to sell the perfume and wouldn’t they have done a better job in distributing all the money this woman’s gift could have brought them?
It is true that a few drops could have accomplished the same goal. But how often was it that Christ’s disciples were accused of such excesses? And how often are Christians scoffed at for doing too much rather than too little? What was done to Jesus by this woman will stand as an eternal example for us. We too should pour out everything we own over Jesus. We too should be inspired to exercise our faith generously, even embarrassingly so. And all because what of Jesus has done for us on the cross – and the salvation it brings that is worth far more than any bottle of perfume.