“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of 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. “ – Matthew 26:6-7
Bethany is the town where Lazarus and his sisters lived, but in this situation, the meal is at Simon’s house. It is the most unexpected house to host a meal. Simon was known as a “leper” until he was healed by Christ. Now he is hosting a meal for Jesus.
The woman that comes with the expensive perfume is named as “Mary” when John writes his account of this story (John 12:3). She must have been saving this perfume for just the right situation and time. It is valuable. Somehow she knew (by God’s grace and a nudge of the Spirit?) that this is the time, this is the moment, for her to give it. She chooses to give it all to Jesus. She doesn’t know why, she just knows she is supposed to offer it.
The disciples – the followers of Jesus – are appalled. It is too extravagant; a waste. Jesus is pleased; she obeyed the nudge of the Spirit and did something that involved her in his story of redemption. God’s plans are fulfilled. This woman’s offer of love and devotion prepares Jesus to offer his greatest gift of love: to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)
We know Christ’s sacrifice is near; and we know resurrection is coming. His preparation and her involvement in his journey of obedience…these are moments of faithful risk. In the kingdom of God we take risks to love across societal norms, boundaries that limit access to Christ, and even fears whether they are real or imagined.
We return to the neighborhood today and knock on doors to invite the children to come out for “Bible Club”. Some will say yes. Some will wait for another day. We will teach the Bible stories, play games and sing. Love, friendship and joy will be shared, if even for a few short hours of the day.
I do wonder… Is it possible that we, who are so deeply distracted with our busy lives, are bringing “perfume” to the neighborhood? Or is it much more likely that Jesus finds us in Simon, the Leper, and asks us to come into the neighborhood and be healed so we can serve others with him?
Jesus is grateful for the woman’s lavish love. He says this moment is so important that every time this story is told, her act of faith and love will be shared. He wanted us to know this. She took the risk of walking into a setting where women were not typically welcomed. She gave her greatest gift and it prepared him for his. How are you giving your best for Christ?
God help us to walk humbly as we go through your neighborhoods today. Heal in us whatever keeps us from loving and serving you freely. We have no good apart from you so please come near. We love you. We trust you completely. Thank you for trusting and loving us enough to bring us here with you.
Serving with our youth group in Memphis. The joy of witnessing what God is doing in our teenagers is a gift. Being with children in the neighborhood is just finding where Jesus is already and joining the miracle. Grateful.