Devotional: April 13, 2022
Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7a 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. 8But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? 9For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’ 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’
Matthew 26: 6-13 NRSV
Out of all of the events of Jesus’s final week upon this earth, his anointing at Bethany is probably the most unique. Amid run-ins with the Scribes and Pharisees, and weeping over Jerusalem, this story represents something completely different.
Apparently divinely inspired, this anonymous woman finds out the location of Jesus, and goes to see Him. She brings with her an alabaster jar of very costly ointment. She then proceeds to pour out this perfume upon Jesus’ head. We do not know how Jesus’ initially responded, but it seems that he did not object to this public display of devotion.
Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, were very disturbed. They were even angered by the woman’s actions. They complained to Jesus, saying, “The money spent upon this perfume could have been better spent. Here is what we suggest: sell it, and then let’s give the money to the poor.”
Jesus doesn’t share their sentiment- at all! He tells them to leave the woman alone. Then, He states an obvious and sobering truth: His death is rapidly approaching. He sees this woman’s act as divinely inspired: the perfume acts to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. Finally, He states that this loving act, by an otherwise anonymous woman, will be told all over the world. In today’s terminology, her loving act of devotion will have gone “viral.”
The story reminds me to be humble. Like the disciples, I can be judgmental, and assume I know more than I really do. In the end, the disciples look like they, rather than this woman, are the ones with the misplaced priorities!
This passage also reinforces the fundamental truth that we all are individuals, and unique children of God. This woman’s act of devotion was different than everyone else’s, but our Lord received it with an open heart.
Each person’s connection with God is unique, since none of us are exactly the same. Therefore, what nurtures our relationship with God may be different from what nurtures someone else. Some listen to Christian music. Others read a daily devotional. Some speak to God each morning. Other end each day with a prayer. Others are energized by group bible studies. Still others find it more helpful to study the bible on their own, perhaps with a written guide, or a good commentary.. Still others keep a spiritual journal. Whatever it is which makes your heart sing, you should do it!
When you are spending time focusing on Jesus, as did the woman with the alabaster jar of very costly ointment, you are giving your best to the Lord.
For this woman, pouring out expensive ointment upon the head of her Lord was the correct path for her. Who were the disciples to judge her? May we each be open to the wide variety of ways we can spiritually express our love to the Lord. There is no right or wrong way, when our hearts are focused upon the Lord.
Holy and Loving Lord,
As I contemplate the meaning of this Holy week, help me to renew my devotion to You. Forgive me when I put off spending time with You, thinking that there is always going to be time tomorrow. Like the woman who anointed Jesus’ head, inspire me to love You fully today. I pray this prayer in the name of the One who is worthy of all our praise, and all our devotion: You, O Christ. Amen.