A Special Act of Love
Text: Matthew 26 : 1 - 30
Jesus celebrated His last Passover at Bethany! Matthew carefully noted a special act of love shown to Jesus. When that event happened, he and his fellow-disciples had not fully understood the special act of love shown to Jesus by Mary (John named the giver in his Gospel. Cf John 12:1-8).
“And when Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper,
a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly
fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.
But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying,
‘Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold
for much and given to the poor.'”
Let us take time to read what John wrote in his Gospel of this same account.
“There they made Him a supper; and Martha served,
but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.
Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard,
anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair.
And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son,
who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil
not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’
This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because
he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take
what was put in it.”
Lazarus’ gift to Jesus was to open up his home to Jesus and His disciples. Martha’s part was to cook for them and to serve. What could Mary do? She was the one who would sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him teach God’s Word (Cf. Luke 10:38-42). Just as her siblings had given to Jesus a special gift, she too wanted to give Him something really special!
Her special gift must have seemed extravagant to others. The remarks of the disciples must have hurt her deeply. Led by Judas Iscariot, the evening looked as if it was headed for disaster! Being publicly criticized by none other than the disciples of Jesus! That was a hard blow difficult to bear!
Why had they seen only the monetary value of the gift she presented to Jesus! Yes, the gift was costly! But what of that? If the gift had cost her a hundred times more, she would still have given Him this special gift!
She was giving this special gift to Jesus! How she loved Him! And why should she not love Him so dearly? He had healed her brother of leprosy. He had even raised him from the dead. He had chosen to love her and her family first (Cf. John 11:1-5). Jesus’ love for this family was well known to all! He had given her salvation. He had befriended her. He had even taught her the Scriptures! How her heart longed to give Him a special gift to express her love. She found no words adequate enough to speak to Him.
Her silence, her tears, her spikenard – let them help her speak what her heart felt. Surely Jesus would understand, even when His disciples didn’t! Tears flowed even as she anointed Jesus. She would use her hair, the crown of glory for a woman, to wipe His feet dry! Surely Jesus would understand every little thing she was saying, though she had not spoken a word!
THE CALLOUSNESS OF THE DISCIPLES
It is sad to note that the disciples were guilty of such misconduct. They were in her home, though technically, the home belonged to her brother, Lazarus. Still, it was just sheer impolite of them to offer open criticism of her gift to Jesus!
The person who started the ball rolling was Judas Iscariot. Quickly, he estimated the value of the gift. To him this was a waste of money. We can understand why he said what he did. Firstly, he never came to have personal faith in Jesus. He may have seen all that Jesus did, but his heart remained hardened. He had not believed that Jesus was the Messiah. He did not believe in Jesus as the Saviour. Thus there wasn’t a deep sense of appreciation of Jesus. The second reason was because he was nothing more than a common thief! To steal funds right under the nose of his fellow-disciples and Jesus, showed him up for who he was!
Judas was cunning. He knew how to stir up the feelings of the disciples. He knew just which spot to hit! The money angle was one. The mention of the needs of the poor was another. This was like a two-edged sword in his hands. He wielded it well.
For the moment, the disciples forgot themselves. They forgot their manners. Worse, they forgot that the gift was offered to their beloved Master! How could they deny Jesus of any gift – no matter how costly that gift may be!
THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE PRECIOUS GIFT
All eyes looked to Jesus as He opened His mouth to speak. He had to speak. And even as He spoke, the eyes of the disciples were opened. How wrong they were to have spoken as they did.
“But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them,
‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done
a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always,
but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil
on My body, she did it for My 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.’ ”
How ashamed the disciples must have felt at these words of Jesus! What could they have been thinking when they said what they did! They stood rebuked by Jesus!