The Anointing at Bethany
3 While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4 But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
What on earth is nard? What made it so expensive? Why does it have such a terrible name? After some research, it seems that nard is a rare essential oil derived from flowering plants found only in the Himalayas of Nepal, India and China. So you can imagine having it in Jerusalem at that time would have made it very expensive. Some say around a year’s wages for a normal person.
I can see why the disciples might have thought this a waste of a potentially valuable resource. At first glance it seems that Jesus has taught his disciples well. They believe that the money they could have gotten for the costly nard could go to help those less fortunate. This lines up perfectly with what Jesus teaches them. Think of the parables of the rich young ruler and the widow’s mite, or even the Sermon on the Mount. You almost expect Jesus to say “Well done! You finally get it!”
Jesus instead scolds them for admonishing the woman. The disciples must have been dumbfounded. But what the disciples don’t know, or have avoided thinking about, is that Jesus knows his time is coming to an end. This woman (not named here, but if we look to John 12:3, we know her name is Mary) can sense that Jesus is sorrowful and that he is in need of something and she does what she can to give Jesus peace. Jesus is grateful to feel loved because he is human and this extravagant show of love helps him to prepare for what is coming.
As we travel through Lent, and especially Holy Week, it is important to have our eyes wide open to the world around us. To see that there is need in this world and to find ways to make a difference. This scripture reminds us though, that we should also have our eyes on God and make sure that we are doing is pleasing to Him. As we continue our journey to the cross this week, my prayer is that we all continue to keep our eyes open to God’s amazing grace and how it is working in all of our lives.
Peace to your path, Bryant Gibson
Director of Youth & Children’s Ministry