Matthew 26:6-13 (NIV) While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
The woman, who John tells us was Mary, Lazarus’ sister (John 12:1-3) teaches us about the cost of true devotion. First, out of a heart of gratitude for what He meant to her personally, and for raising her brother from the dead, the cost of her act of devotion never crossed her mind. She brought the best that she had to offer, without the merest sense of having to give something up. (Mark tells us that the perfume was worth 300 denarii, or about a year’s wages for the average worker.) All she knew was that even this gift was pitifully insignificant compared to the benefit that Jesus had brought to her and her household. She would gladly have given many vials of perfume had she possessed them.
Next, her actions were not only misunderstood by onlookers, but were actually criticized. All that the complaining disciples (the loudest of whom was Judas – John 12:4-6) could see was a missed opportunity for Mary to accommodate herself to their agenda, to donate to their pet cause. They were being so practical that they entirely missed what was going on here – a singular act of devotion to the Lord. In fact, a case could be made that they were missing entirely who Jesus really was, something that Mary had eyes to clearly see in that moment, a reality that moved her to extravagant sacrifice.
Finally, despite her act of sacrificial love being misunderstood by the masses, even by her fellow believers, they were clearly understood and warmly received by Jesus Himself. In fact, they were received on a deeper level than even Mary herself could see. Mary, like the other followers of Jesus, could not process the idea that Jesus would be arrested and executed, that a mere 48 hours from that moment His body would be lying cold, stiff, and lifeless, in a borrowed tomb outside the city walls. But Jesus knew, and received what she had offered in light of the truth that only He could see.
Jesus’ closing words were prophetic and obviously fulfilled to the letter. Three of the four gospel writers (all but Luke) include this event in their gospels. Obviously her actions, Jesus words, and the events that transpired over the next two days all made a powerful impact on them.
Jesus’ heart sees the hearts of all those who bring their offerings to Him, whether that offering is worldly goods, worship, a song, or, what He values most highly, our hearts. And we never have to worry that our offering will be spurned, rejected, or devalued, no matter how large or small, as long as it is given from the heart.
Father, it is that way all throughout the Bible. A prize bull offered with a hard and calloused heart was rejected by You, but the widows mite, given out of her love and devotion to You, was warmly accepted, and even praised. (Luke 21:1-4) Help me to always bring my best, but help me to always bring it with a heart that is completely devoted to You. Amen.