"'Leave her alone,' said Jesus. 'Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.'"

In today's passage a woman broke her alabaster jar of perfume and poured it on Jesus. The disciples saw this woman's action and rebuked the woman harshly. But Jesus praised her action as a beautiful thing done to him. He blessed it to be an event that should be remembered in his gospel history. This woman's act of devotion and giving to Jesus was a prelude of what Jesus would do for all mankind. Each of us also has our own alabaster jar of perfume. Let's learn today what we must do with it.


First, the Last Passover (1-2). Look at verse 1a. "Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away...." The Passover commemorated the deliverance of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt for 430 years. During the Passover the Israelites came to Jerusalem and sacrificed the Passover lambs. Every year Jesus and his disciples had participated in the Passover. But this Passover was to be the last Passover for Jesus. At this Passover, Jesus would be the Passover Lamb who would shed his blood in order to take away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

It was two days before the Passover. There were many kinds of people in the crowd. There were the chief priests and teachers of the law. As the religious leaders, they should have given their hearts in preparation of the Passover. They should have taught the Bible to those who came to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Passover. Instead, they wanted to kill Jesus in some sly way. Why did they hate Jesus so much? It was because Jesus rebuked their hypocritical and selfish lifestyles publicly. God had called them to be shepherds of his people. But they took care of themselves only. They should have repented and decided to live a new life as God's servants. Instead, they hardened their hearts and became murderous like Cain. As you know, politicians do not kill people openly, but they kill people in a sly way. These religious leaders became such wicked politicians. In this circumstance, Jesus was preparing for his upcoming crucifixion as the Passover Lamb–as the ransom sacrifice for the sin of the world. He was preparing a new Exodus— the exodus of all mankind from the power of sin and death.

Second, a woman anointed Jesus with her alabaster jar of perfume (3-6). Jesus was in Bethany, one of the satellite towns of Jerusalem. He was reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper. We don't know who Simon the Leper was. No doubt he was healed of his leprosy by Jesus' compassion and word. In order to thank Jesus, Simon the Leper invited Jesus and his disciples to have dinner at his house. Ordinary people must have hesitated to have dinner at the former leper's house. But Jesus was happy to receive a dinner invitation from his sheep--Simon the Leper. Jesus' disciples were also happy because they did not care whether the host was a former leper or not as long as they could enjoy free food.

What unexpected thing happened while Jesus was eating in the home of Simon? Look at verse 3b. "A woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head." Usually Jesus did not wear any perfume. But this time Jesus was covered in perfume from head to toe. Jesus smelled good. Soon the pleasing aroma of the perfume filled the house of Simon the Leper. The Bible says that this woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. This perfume was made of pure nard. Nard comes from the root of a variety of the valerian plant which grows in the Himalayas. In Jesus' time, perfume made of pure nard from India was recognized as of premium quality and was very expensive. At a glance, people could calculate that this perfume was worth more than a year's wages, about three hundred denarii, which in contemporary terms is about $30,000. Indeed, this alabaster jar of perfume was very expensive. This woman poured a $30,000 worth of perfume on Jesus at one time in order to honor him.

How did the people around her respond to her action? "Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, 'Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor'" (4,5a). We can understand why people were so upset. This woman had taken what was probably her entire life savings and completely wasted it. Their jaws dropped to the floor as the expensive perfume dropped to the ground and disappeared. They rebuked her harshly, saying, "What are you doing? What a waste of perfume?" They had a point. That perfume could have been converted into cash to buy blankets and soup for the poor. $30,000 will buy a lot of bread. $30,000 would buy a lot of yummy Chicken McNuggets with Chipotle sauce. That would have been far more practical. After all, the world needs food, not fragrance. Their point was that it's ok to express a little love for Jesus, but let's not go overboard. Couldn't she have expressed her appreciation with flowers or candy or a nice Hallmark "thank-you" card? That would have been a much more prudent use of money. What a waste! That was how the people interpreted the woman's action. They were sensible, reasonable and practical. To their eyes, the woman's action was insensible, unreasonable, extreme and utterly impractical.

But their error was that they did not understand the pure heart of this woman. In the past this woman put her hope in the alabaster jar of expensive perfume. The alabaster jar of very expensive perfume was her treasure. But now the alabaster jar of perfume didn't mean much to her. Jesus was all the world to her. Jesus was her treasure. Their other error was that they did not know who Jesus was. If she poured such expensive perfume on an ordinary guy, we would agree that she was crazy and foolish, because that person might not be worth such amount of devotion. In fact, many people pour their hearts on those who are not worthy of their devotion and adoration, only to be disappointed again and again. In that case, we are ready to say, "What a waste!" But this woman broke her alabaster jar of perfume to honor Jesus as her Lord, Savior and King because Jesus was the object of adoration worthy that amount of devotion. Is Jesus worthy of all our heart devotion and adoration? Yes, he is. Revelation 5:12 says, "In a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'"

Third, "She has done a beautiful thing to me." (6) Let's see how Jesus saw this woman. Look at verse 6. "'Leave her alone,' said Jesus. 'Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.'" What does it mean that she had done a beautiful thing to him? To Jesus, her pouring the expensive perfume on him was not a waste. It was selfless, timely and costly act of worship. It was selfless because she was not expecting anything back in return. It was timely. Look at verses 7-8. "The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." In these verses, Jesus meant that his time of trial, crucifixion and death was fast approaching. People would not have any chance to express their love and loyalty to Jesus. But this woman seized the moment and expressed her love to Jesus by breaking the jar and pouring the perfume on Jesus. We should love Jesus when we are young. We should not lose our precious moments for worthless things. This woman did not lose the precious moment. It was costly. She gave extravagantly all she had. Her lavish expression of love to Jesus moved and comforted Jesus' heart greatly. It was heart-moving and simply beautiful. When she poured the perfume, in actuality, she poured out her heart to Jesus. When she poured the perfume on him, she was pouring out her love to Jesus: She loved Jesus with all her heart. We don't know whether she was beautiful in her outward appearance or not. But she had a beautiful heart—a heart filled with thanks, love and devotion to Jesus.

We are living in a perverse and crooked generation. People say, "Good is bad; bad is good." For example, people waste their time and money seeking pleasure and all kinds of entertainments. They waste their life in pursuing worthless things of this world. Still they think that such a lifestyle is normal, fun and good. But if anyone gives their time and money and life in studying and teaching the Bible, people criticize the person, saying, "What a waste!" Life spent in sin is a waste, utter waste! It is an empty way of life. On the other hand, our time, money and life spent for Jesus are full of meaning and purpose and it is simply beautiful! It is our fragrant offering to Jesus.

What about the poor? Those who love Jesus sacrificially can also love the poor sacrificially. For example, recently UBF sent 12 tons of wheat noodles to North Koreans who need humanitarian aid. According to John's gospel, it was Judas Iscariot who rebuked the woman harshly. John 12:6 says, "He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it." Judas loved money and finally sold Jesus for 30 silver coins. But he did not help the poor with the 30 silver coins as he claimed he would.

This woman's action for Jesus foreshadowed Jesus' action for us. Jesus was going to be broken and pour out his blood on the cross as the Lamb of God for the forgiveness of man's sins. Though Jesus had predicted this to his disciples again and again, no one paid attention to it. No one shared his burden and agony. Even the woman who poured the alabaster jar of perfume did not know. But Jesus accepted it and honored it as anointing his body for burial in his redemptive history. Jesus said in verse 9. "I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." As Jesus said, this event is recorded in all four gospels.

Fourth, Judas was a selfish man (10-11). Mark contrasts this woman with Judas Iscariot. Look at verses 10,11. "Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over." How could he do such an evil thing to his master Jesus? Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Judas loved money more than Jesus. He did not accept Jesus as his personal Savior and Lord. He did not commit his heart and life to Jesus. When he remained uncommitted, the devil came into his heart and made him extremely selfish.

This story of the woman's love and devotion to Jesus points to Jesus himself. As the woman poured out her very expensive perfume made of pure nard on Jesus, Jesus was about to pour out his precious and sinless blood to wash away all our sins. As the woman made a lavish expression of love to Jesus, Jesus was about to make the most extravagant and lavish statement of love in the history of the world by giving his precious life for sinners like us. The woman's love for Jesus was pure, beautiful, memorable and amazing, but Jesus deserved it all. The more amazing thing is that Jesus gave himself for us, though we deserve nothing, even one drop of his blood. Romans 5:7,8 reads, "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Our Lord Jesus has done a beautiful thing for us. He gave his life as a ransom sacrifice for sinner like us though we don't deserve it at all. He shed his precious blood without reservation in order to wash away all our sins once and for all. His love for us is indeed recklessly spendthrift, selfless, costly and extravagant. He spent everything for us. We are to love him and serve him likewise, like this woman. But sometimes we serve Jesus like business people with minimum effort, expecting maximum profit. We calculate too much. We give to Jesus sparingly, not extravagantly. Let us repent of our poor attitude toward Jesus. Though we may not have an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume to offer to Jesus, we can offer our hearts, money and time to him. When we devote ourselves to Jesus, Jesus will accept it and use it preciously in his gospel work. When our lives of faith are over, we may not receive recognition from this perishing world, but Jesus will honor our lives of devotion to him, saying, "You have done a beautiful thing to me."


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