March 6, 2016
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
Twenty-four hours before the Last Supper, while the chief priests and teachers of the law were looking for some way to arrest and kill Him, Jesus was dining with Simon the Leper, when an unnamed woman came in with an alabaster jar with expensive perfume to pour on His head (Mark 14:1-9). This gift of perfume, presented in all four Gospels, was actually a metaphor for the ultimate gift, which the Son of God was about to give to all of humanity.
Five observations about this woman’s gifts:
1. She gave only what she could give.
The woman broke open an entire jar of “expensive perfume of pure nard” (Mark 14:4), supposedly worth about $12,000. Although we admire this woman for her devotion, courage and generosity, we wonder what moved her to do this. She did not know Jesus was about to die; nothing in her culture would instruct her to do this.
In Mark 14:8, Jesus said, “She did what she could.” Literally, this means: What she had, she did. She took the resource she had and used it for Jesus.
Each of us has a specific contribution God has equipped us with, to use for His Kingdom. Each of us is the only one who can give this gift in the way in which we can do it (the context), and the only one who can do it in just the right time (the moment).
2. She gave it all.
When the woman had broken the jar of expensive perfume, she was entirely committed. The container was broken and there was no turning back. She had truly obeyed Jesus’ command in Mark 12:30 to “love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength…”
Do we walk the path of safety, of “common sense,” and perhaps hold back?
Or do we follow the example of this woman who listened to the Holy Spirit in her life, and obeyed by giving all she had to Jesus wholeheartedly?
3. What she gave was criticized by others.
It must have been shocking to this woman to be met by such strong resistance from the disciples themselves: “They rebuked her sharply” (Mark 14:5).
Be ready for such criticism. In reality, that is often the way it goes when you wholeheartedly bring your gift to Jesus. The very thing that an individual should be praised for is often criticized by well-meaning people. The logic is often on the side of critics, but we must be careful to listen to God’s guidance through his Spirit and become a part of what God is doing.
4. What she gave was valued by Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ perspective is often different from the world’s. When Jesus responded to her gift of perfume, He said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6). Jesus had just previously illustrated this in the parable of the widow’s offering in Mark 12:41-44, which shows that the less you have to give, the more valuable it is to God, and that this widow is indeed greater than the chief priests and teachers of the law.
What each of us has as gifts (a skill or ability, a resource, experience, time, hospitality, attitudes of the heart, such as unconditional love, etc.), matters greatly to God.
5. Jesus connected the woman’s gift to His gift.
Jesus clarified the woman’s act: “She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial” (Mark 14:8).
Her gift was to be esteemed and remembered because she prepared the way for Jesus’ gift. Jesus was about to break the jar (His body) for us and die on a Roman cross. In His death, Jesus moved beyond simply being an example for us to becoming our substitute. Jesus experienced God’s wrath for our sins. God took Jesus’ innocence and gave it to us as a substitute.
Lord, reveal to each of us the gifts you want us to bring back to You. Even though we might meet resistance, help us to value our individual gifts, as You value them. With Your help, may we give extravagantly what only we can give.
Gratefully, we thank You for Jesus’ ultimate gift to us of exchanging His innocence for our imperfections and sin. May we value the fact that we are able to have a relationship with a perfect, holy God only because of Jesus’ gift to us. By faith in Jesus, we are able to be clean and enter God’s presence.