Why this Waste?

 “A woman approached him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. She poured it on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw it, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This might have been sold for a great deal and given to the poor.”

Matthew 26:7-9

Is it possible we’re missing something here?

Just previously Jesus warned His disciples that He was about to be crucified. Apparently, they didn’t understand. And immediately after that, the Pharisees and elders begin to get serious about putting Him to death. The word “plot” is used. At this point, things have gotten deadly.

Jesus is at the home of Simon the leper; he’s eating and drinking. Simon is a little-known character with a common name; perhaps he’s a man whom Jesus had healed? (He and his home would’ve been unclean if his disease was present.)

In comes a woman carrying an alabaster jar that was only used for holding perfume of the highest quality. John 12 tells us that this was Mary, the sister of Martha (remember that story)?

She carries an alabaster perfume which was extremely expensive, worth almost a year’s wages. What she’s about to do is extravagant, the neck of the bottle is broken and Mary begins to pour it on the feet of Jesus.

The cost of the poured-out perfume is exorbitant.

Immediately the disciples object. This seems to be the first time that they agree that what she was doing was totally out of line. They can’t believe what she’s doing is okay. All they can see is something too extravagant, and far too lavish.

They considered the cost–it’s almost a year’s wages. “Why was this perfume wasted?” That’s a logical analysis. “The oil could’ve been sold!” It would have helped a lot of poor people who could have really used it. The book of John amplifies all of this:

“But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”

John 12:4-6

If we try to think this through we just might agree with them. That’s a lot of money, and it’s such a waste. (You might have dumped it down the drain, Mary.)

A week from this Jesus-Mary-anointing, the Lord would be whipped, and struggle through the streets of Jerusalem carrying an obscenely heavy cross. Jesus would then be stripped of His clothing and then be crucified. Some have suggested that the scent of the perfumed oil would still be present. Perhaps He noticed?

Interesting what small things can do.

“It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men.”

   C.S. Lewis


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