Lord, give me a deeper understanding of this woman’s act of devotion.
Read MATTHEW 26:1–16
The Plot Against Jesus
1 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 5 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”
Jesus Anointed at Bethany
6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 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.
8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
When was the last time you sacrificed something valuable and meaningful to you for the sake of the Lord and his work?
Like rapid-fire sequences in a movie, the scenes are changing dramatically. Jesus’ own words introduce the whole narrative; then the first scene focuses on the seat of power in Jerusalem, where a sinister plot by Jesus’ enemies to do away with him is emerging. By dramatic contrast the second scene, a detailed scene of affection, takes place in a village home. The third scene returns to the seat of power for a short glimpse of the planned betrayal. These quick scenes deal with different attitudes and responses to Jesus—the first, those who hate him enough to murder him; the second, a woman who loves him deeply and unashamedly; and the third, a one-time friend who betrays him.
Matthew’s community has already experienced hate, love and betrayal. In the central scene a woman pours expensive perfume on Jesus. Matthew does not identify her as an intruder, a bystander, a guest or a host-family member. We should not try to add details from similar stories in either Luke or John, which may or may not recount the same event. To speculate on whether she was a prostitute, or one of the known Marys, significantly detracts from the simple point of Matthew’s account: this is a prophetic preparation for Jesus’ burial. The woman does not realize this. She is simply devoted to Jesus. She acts impulsively, perhaps sensing the dark forces closing in. Jesus relieves her of potential embarrassment. Only Jesus fully understands the inevitability of his fate, and he graciously turns her emotional extravagance into a devotional act, an advance provision for his burial. Matthew does not tell us that the women went to the tomb after Jesus’ death to anoint his body. For Matthew, that has already happened.
“I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me, / and purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; / I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; / if ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now” (William Ralph Featherstone, 1846–1873).
Lord, thank You for allowing Yourself to be killed as a sacrificial lamb for the sake of our forthcoming salvation.