“And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3-9)
Mark tells the story of this act of devotion. More than that, this is a lavish, sacrificial, loving act of devotion. This is an act that echoes through time as a heart has been shown love and beauty. This is an act in response to mercy given, and grace experienced from a place of sin and brokenness and need. This is an act that reflects redemption and forgiveness and the restoration found only in the person of Jesus Christ. This is an act of worship as God, in human form, has come to the house of Simon the leper.
The perfume used was expensive, a mark of lavishness and excess. It would have been used by someone sparingly, something to be treasured. And then, shockingly, the flask was broken open and the ointment was poured over Jesus’ head. The Son of God, the spotless lamb who takes away the sins of the world, had been anointed.
Jesus expressed that she has done a beautiful thing and that her story would be told wherever the gospel is proclaimed (like in this blog post). There is a worshipful aspect to her act of devotion. She has seen and heard him many times during his three year ministry but, more than that, she knows his heart for the lost sinners of Israel. She has personally experienced his love and care in a way so profound that her only reaction can be to buy the most expensive oil she can afford and to then pour it out on his head in an attitude and act of worship.
Why worship like this? It’s a lavish act. It’s over the top and beyond the norm. It’s done with no consideration of the disciples or the other guests in attendance. She seems to be compelled to act out of a love needing to be expressed bodily, confidently and directly.
Notice how this act of worship makes everyone uncomfortable, except for Jesus. Lavish acts of worship will make people uncomfortable. But she loves Jesus. I wonder if she understands (in some aspect) the path that he will soon embark upon. I wonder if she understands how, in this expression of love and devotion, she is also anointing Jesus for his burial.
I believe she understood the good news of the coming Messiah. That Jesus was the light of the world; the better way; the last and final sacrifice; the high priest, the culmination of the salvation of God. I believe she was so moved in adoration that, to not perform this particular expression of worship, would have left her feeling like she hadn’t brought enough. Her desire was to give all that she had.
As she is anointing Jesus, she seems to be responding out of need. She expresses her love and gratitude for the forgiveness that He poured out to her. In other gospels, the woman is described as mixing her tears with the oil that was covering Jesus.
Now, it’s difficult to convey aroma with words. No doubt, as the flask was broken and the perfume poured out, the smell would have completely filled the room. One could imagine that conversations would have ceased as people flared their noses and became aware of the aroma. As the flask was poured on to Jesus and rubbed into his hair, the aroma would have been arresting — maybe even overwhelming. And Jesus was comfortable with all of it.
Without even knowing it at the time, she was anointing His body for burial. As Jesus was tried, ridiculed, abandoned, beaten, tortured and eventually executed on a cross, the aroma would have still lingered. The perfume would have hovered around him while He was being put to death. The beautiful aroma — a reminder of an act of devotion. Love poured out, as Jesus himself had his life poured out on the cross for his beloved.
What would our lives look like if we sacrificially and lavishly devoted our lives to Jesus? What if this devotion came from a place of love, gratitude and devotion? The aroma would fill our families, our lives and the world.