Anointing at Bethany; Matthew 26:7-13


a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Daily Reflection

This unnamed woman seems to have understood, in a way the disciples didn’t, something about Jesus.  She has been called “the first believer,” “the perfect disciple.”  Somehow, she sensed who Jesus was and what he was facing.  Instead of anointing him as a king, which is what most of his followers would have wanted, she anointed him for burial, for his death.  And it wasn’t just a few drops of oil—“There, that ought to be enough!”—it was a whole jar of “very costly ointment,” an extravagant gift, estimated to be worth anywhere between $250 to $500.  She was lifted out of the domain of careful calculations, into the realm of unbridled love and devotion, self-denial and self-forgetfulness—a true mark of the kingdom of God among us.

Meanwhile, the disciples just didn’t get it.  They had what might be called a “market mentality”—“Why all this waste?”—when there were so many worthy causes it could have been used for.  They didn’t understand the spontaneity of love, or its extravagance—what Paul captured so beautifully in his ode to love: Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”  “Love is a spendthrift,” writes Paul Scherer, “which leaves all its calculations at home.”  And then, there’s this—GOD is love! What this woman did gives us a hint of what God is always about—loving us extravagantly, unconditionally!

Daily Prayer

Restore in us the image if your love, O God, that the longings of our hearts may be extravagant.  Restore in us the image of your love, that our passion for life may be full to overflowing. Amen.

~Sherm Skinner