Mark 14:3-9 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly. But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”
This morning, I read the following quote by Arthur Ashe, Jr, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” He was a famous tennis player who retired in 1980. I’m sure he wasn’t referring to the scripture that I have quoted above when he made that statement, but it is quite fitting. Jesus was in Bethany in the home a leper. The timing was just prior to Judas making a contract for the life of Christ and just two days prior to Christ’s crucifixion. While Jesus was eating in this home, a woman walked over and poured a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume onto the head of Christ. She was immediately scolded. It was pointed out by some at the table that the perfume could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor. The people had no idea of the coming events, but Jesus did, and perhaps this woman had the sense of urgency to do something right then and there.
The people at the table saw the value in the perfume, but they did not recognize the value of the act that was performed. Christ did, and in fact, He noted five significant things about this act. First of all, Christ saw it as an extremely beautiful extravagant act. The beauty was in the extravagance of the act, and not in the extravagance of the perfume. The people at the table saw the act as one of waste. In their eyes, she had wasted an enormous amount of money. It was an extremely lavish act. So they scolded her harshly. “But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me?”
Secondly, we see that the act was very timely. Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.” He knew that His time to depart was coming soon. He told the people that there will always be poor among them, and that they can help the poor anytime they wanted, but they would not always have Christ with them in the flesh. The timing of the act was significant because although they could always do what they could to help the poor, Christ would not be around in the physical body for much longer.
Next, we see that she did what she could with what she had. She didn’t have time to prepare an elaborate meal. She couldn’t sew Him a new garment. There was no time for that. She did what she could with what she had, and Jesus recognized the significance of this. As Christians, there are many times that we can do things with what we have on hand to serve the Lord. It is practical application. This woman was practical even though her act was extravagant. And Christ said, “She has done what she could.”
The fourth thing we see was the insight in the act. Jesus recognized the fact that this woman was actually anointing His body before the burial. Jesus had told His disciples, His trusted friends and followers, about His impending death, but they didn’t believe Him. Yet, this woman felt the urgency to anoint Christ at that very moment. Jesus said, “She has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.” What a precious act of love.
Last, we see that her act was one that would be remembered. Here I sit, over 2000 years later, writing about this very woman and the act of love that she showed for our Savior. Christ said, ” I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” And…so He was right! We still remember her gracious, extravagant act.
What can we take away from this extravagant act? Let’s return to the quote that I opened with. Start where you are. You may feel that you don’t have anything to offer, but I assure you, God has gifted you with a talent or ability for His service. You merely need to pray and search yourself to discover that talent. Then, you simply have to use what you have. Put your talents and abilities to work in the service for our Savior. Finally, just do what you can! I promise you that God will bless your endeavors, and although on our own, we can’t accomplish much, we can do anything through Christ who strengthens us!