While Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman approached him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. She poured it on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw it, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This might have been sold for a great deal and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.” Matthew 26:6-9
There’s a phenomenon happening these days by way of videos posted to the internet. People capture memorable moments with their cameras and share them on the World Wide Web. Sometimes a video becomes ‘viral’, giving the ‘star’ instant, albeit short lived, fame.
Matthew 26 tells one of the most powerful stories gone viral ever told. It has remained viral for centuries making an unnamed, sinful woman famous because of her act of extravagant giving. The disciples called it waste. Jesus called it a beautiful thing. There are timeless realities of the beauty of love and sacrifice found here.
First, a Jewish woman cherished her perfume so much that she kept it in a vial worn around her neck. The perfume belonging to our lady in this story was worth a laborer’s whole year’s wages. She took this precious commodity, probably the most valuable of her possessions, and poured it over Jesus’ head. She even used it to wipe his feet with her hair and her tears. The disciples were indignant saying the oil could have been sold and used to help the poor. But the woman’s love did not calculate the gift. She didn’t even consider using only a partial amount. Her one desire was to give to the utmost limits. It is not the value of the gift, but the driving force of love that makes it precious.
The story also shows there is a significant difference between the economics of common sense and the economics of love. Common sense commands prudence. Love obeys the commands of the heart. It is good to practice common sense, but sometimes only love’s extravagance can meet love’s demands. A gift only becomes a precious gift when we give far more than we can afford.
Further, this now famous sinner woman took advantage of an opportunity when it arose. The disciples wanted to help the poor; but the Rabbis themselves said, “God allows the poor to be with us always and opportunities to do good are always there.” Some things can only be done once. If we miss those opportunities, they are gone forever. For many of us the tragedy of life is that it is merely the history of lost opportunities to do the beautiful thing.
Another reality is that the fragrance of a beautiful deed lasts forever. These deeds are so rare that when they are done they shine like a light in a dark cavern. The treachery, intrigue, tragedy and bitterness present in the world at the time of this story make it shine like an oasis of light in the darkness. The greatest thing a person can do is leave a memory of a lovely deed.
Ultimately, the greatest gift of gifts is Jesus Christ. The woman in this story knew it! She knew the One she extravagantly anointed is the One who fulfilled Messianic prophecy and whose love is everlasting and perfect. As we reflect on this current season of giving, let’s give from the heart. Let’s leave timeless stories in the world that show the beautiful gift of Jesus Christ, our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!!