As Jesus sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold and the money given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Mark 14:3-9
Let me start by noting that the practice of anointing someone by pouring perfumed oil on them was a common custom among the Hebrews. It had many uses and symbols. It was an act of hospitality to guests to have their feet washed and refreshed with the anointing of oil. It was medicinal for the sick, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and it was applied on bodies as preparation for burial to counteract the smell of death.
The anointing itself was not in question by the disciples and those in the room. The area of criticism was that the woman “wasted” oil, valued at nearly a year’s wages, by pouring it on Jesus. They thought it would have been better to have spent the money meeting the needs of the poor.
Jesus gives an entirely different perspective to the dealings of the woman. The aroma of her actions were accepted and embraced by Jesus. He was honored by her anointing as it was symbolically a preparation for His sacrificial death–a topic the disciples were still denying. He esteemed her actions and her sacrifice as being greater than the monetary value of the resources consumed.
We place costly memorials in our communities that commemorate the sacrifices men and women have made for the sake of others. We recognize people for acts of selfless courage and bravery. This woman’s bold action made such a significant impact and illuminated the message of His impending death and His sacrifice for our sins, that Jesus memorialized her actions in the very presence of her critics.
I challenge you to follow through on the action God instructs you to do today. Faithfulness and obedience are always noticed and honored by God. Let’s be more concerned about His desires than about preserving our reputation and the scrutiny of others.