‘Why are you bothering this woman, she has done a beautiful thing…’ (Matt. 26:10)
Bible Reflection : Matthew 26:6-13
Our reading today focuses on a meal at the home of a certain man known as Simon the Leper. However, what’s interesting when we look at it in more detail, is that it would appear that the woman who came to anoint Jesus was not actually an invited guest at the meal. It’s almost as if she just came in off the street. That might seem strange to us today but back then the houses of those who were wealthy and well-to-do were often built round an open courtyard in which you might find a garden or a fountain. In warmer weather the meals could quite easily have been eaten in these courtyards making it a very public occasion. And often if there was a famous or distinguished teacher as the guest of honour at these meals, locals would come and gather around the courtyard to hear the ‘after dinner’ talk, so to speak, eager not to miss out on any words of wisdom that the teacher might wish to impart. So the chances are that it was at such a meal that Jesus found himself as the guest of honour that day. And it was into that courtyard that the woman came with her perfume.
What exactly sparked off this show of love and devotion, Matthew doesn’t actually say. But there had obviously been something in what Jesus said or did that sparked off something within her soul. Maybe she had also witnessed the events of the past few days. Maybe she now saw the bitterness and anger in the eyes of those who were conspiring against Jesus, plotting to kill Him at the earliest moment. Perhaps she was even moved by the Spirit, realising that this was her last opportunity to demonstrate her love and devotion to this man who had moved her in such a way. And so she seized that moment…She poured not just a single drop but all of this expensive perfume over the head of Jesus.
In Old Testament times only three kinds of people were anointed. Priests were anointed and we read in Exodus 29, concerning the ordination of Aaron as Priest, ‘You shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head, and anoint him…’ Prophets were anointed. Remember 1 Kings 19 Where Elijah was told by God, ‘You shall anoint Elisha…as prophet in your place…’And Kings were anointed. Remember Samuel anointing Saul in chapter 10 of 1 Samuel, ‘Samuel took a vial of oil and pour it on his head..’
So in accepting this anointing from this woman Jesus further stakes His claim as Priest, Prophet and King of the people, although, perhaps not quite in the way that they imagined. Nevertheless Jesus was the Prophet who brought the living Word of God to the people In a way that they had never experienced before. He was the Priest who was the intermediary between the people and God – not through rituals, ceremonies or sacrifice But through Himself, for He was God Incarnate. And He was their King. Not in the image or style of David or Solomon as His Kingdom wasn’t an earthly Kingdom. He claimed men and women to His Kingdom from within their hearts. So even with His enemies breathing down His neck, scrutinizing His every word and action, even amidst the ignorance and misunderstanding of those around Him, Jesus never lost sight of His mission and His destiny. And in many other ways this act of love and devotion by this act of anointing simply reinforces all of that…
However, there is something else we need to focus on here. In this act this woman did the only thing that she felt she could do to express the love and devotion that she had in her heart. Yet in anointing Jesus in this way she gave all that she had to Him as an expression of the love that was in her heart. Such an act of love and devotion is in many ways beyond description and leaves an impression not only on those who witnessed it but on us all. It leaves something that time can never take away and Jesus was quite right when He said that whenever this story was told people would remember this act of love and devotion. But this story also forces us to ask ourselves how we show our love and devotion to our Lord.
As we continue through Holy Week we know that Jesus would make the ultimate sacrifice for us, that He would express the fullness of His love for us on the cross at Calvary. So maybe now is the time for us to reflect on how we express and declare our love for Him. Can we be as expressive in our love, in the way this woman was? Are we willing to make similar sacrifices in the outpouring of our love? What are we willing to give up to come to our Lord? As it was on Palm Sunday, the choice is still ours to make!
Lord, few things in life are seldom what they appear to be and we confess we find that so difficult to deal with. So help us to put our faith and trust in the one thing that is the same today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow – Your love revealed to us in the person of Your Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ. And help us as best we can to share that love with others, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing. For we ask it in His name and for His sake…Amen…