The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
"Why this waste!"

Scripture: Matthew 26:1-13

1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified." 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Ca'iaphas, 4 and took counsel together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult among the people." 6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. 8 But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor." 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
12 In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

Meditation: The Feast of Passover was a time of great anticipation for the Jews. Emotions ran high as people recalled the history of their ancestors' deliverance from slavery in Egypt.  For weeks leading up to the feast intense preparations were made. The Romans sent extra forces to Jerusalem to deal with potential disturbances and uprisings. It was Jewish belief that the Messiah would come at Passover to deliver his people from oppression. Jesus' enemies were expecting him to make his appearance in Jerusalem and they were hoping to arrest him before he had the chance to incite the crowds to make him their Messiah and King.

As Jesus makes his way towards Jerusalem for what he knows will be his last Passover with his disciples, he stops in the village of Bethany where he is invited to dinner by a well-to-do host named Simon.  Mark (14:1-11) and John (12:1-8) recount this story as well and Luke tells us that Simon was a Pharisee. In Luke's account (7:36-50) we are told that Simon did not treat Jesus with the normal coutesty given to guests, such as washing their feet and anointing their head before they reclined at table.  Why did Simon invite him to dinner and then neglect to give him the customary signs of respect and honor? Simon was very likely a collector of celebrities.  He patronized Jesus because of his popularity with the crowds.

When a woman interrupts the meal to anoint Jesus's feet, she causes a scene and provokes Simon's company to criticize her action. Why did this woman approach Jesus and anoint him at the risk of ridicule and abuse by others?  Her action was motivated by one thing, and one thing only, namely, her love for Jesus.  She was oblivious to all around her, except for Jesus.  She also did something which only love can do.  She took the most precious thing she had and spent it all on Jesus.  She didn't just pour a few drops of ointment on Jesus. She poured out all the contents! Her love was not calculated but extravagant. The perfume she anointed Jesus with was a very precious ointment made from a rare plant in faraway India. This ointment was often used for anointing the body at burial.  It was very expensive, almost a year's wages for an ordinary worker.   In a spirit of gratitude and with intense love, this woman lavishly served the one who showed her the mercy and kindness of God. John's Gospel tells us that this woman was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazurus, close friends of Jesus.  Since Jesus was passing through her neighborhood she lost no time to show him a spontaneous act of love and gratitude.

Why did Simon's company view this woman's act as extravagant wastefulness?  They were greedy. A person views things according to what is inside the heart or soul. Jesus remarked that this woman had done a lovely deed.  We can never outmatch God in kindness and generosity.  The greatest proof of his love for us is the willing offer of his only begotten Son who poured out his blood upon the cross for our sins.  Are you ready to pour out your love upon the One who gave himself without reserve for your sake?

"Lord, your grace is sufficient for me.  Fill my heart with love and gratitude for the mercy you have shown to me and give me freedom and joy to love and serve others as you have taught."

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 (c) 2002 Don Schwager