Please read Mark 14:1–9
This story you have just read is found in three of the four gospels. The venue is Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem, in the home of Simon the Leper. Jesus is there. Probably Simon, too, the owner of the home. The twelve disciples were also present. And the final player is a woman. She is carrying an alabaster jar.
Jesus is reclining at a table surrounded by his Twelve. The woman enters with a beautiful jar full of nard. Did you know that nard is a perfume extracted from the dried root leaves of a Himalayan plant that is found between Tibet and India? And the woman had almost a half liter’s worth in the jar. Can you imagine? No wonder it was so expensive – worth more than a year’s wages.
The woman, without fanfare or announcement, proceeds to break the jar and pour its contents on Jesus’ head. Interesting. What is it in Jesus that gave this woman the courage to step out and present such a lavish and costly offering? Could it be that when we are in communion with the Lord, He draws from us both awe and gratitude that eliminate any possibility of fear of offering ourselves?
And then the ugly intrusion of life. The disciples, seated nearby, rebuke the woman very harshly and judgmentally. They accuse her of wasting precious resources.
The woman does not defend her actions. She remains silent. But Jesus speaks up for her. She chose to respond to the failure of these men by not explaining herself. But Jesus did not fail her. Jesus rebukes the disciples for bothering the woman and declares what is actually true (and in so declaring, exposes the ugly motives in the disciples’ hearts). The truth is this…
- She had done a beautiful thing to him. The act of pouring perfume on his head was beautiful, not a waste.
- This was not the time to consider the use of the perfume as a waste or a mistake. Actually, the timing of the act was perfect.
- This anointing had a purpose—to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.
Then Jesus declares that this woman’s offering would be remembered and told throughout the world, in memory of her. How amazing that we are part of this story, too, by remembering her now.
What do you have to offer to God? What do you WANT to offer to God? As you consider your offering, also consider the following observations: As global working women, we have learned the hard way that sometimes our offering will be unappreciated or even criticized by our co-workers. This is reality. Some may even say, “Why are you wasting your time doing that?!” This comes from ugly places in their own hearts. And there are ugly places in our hearts that cause us to either downgrade other’s gifts/offerings or cause us to doubt the value of our own offerings.
The woman in Simon the Leper’s home fulfilled Scripture as she prepared Jesus’ body for burial. Interesting, isn’t it, that this woman had more insight regarding the coming events than any of the Twelve who had been with Jesus for three years? Could it be that when our hearts are prepared to give an offering, we become more aware of spiritual realities?
Finally, keep in mind that our sacrificial offering will be remembered, maybe only by the Lord, but it will be remembered.
In closing, recall another incident earlier in Jesus’ life and ministry. Another anointing by a woman. Again, Jesus is anointed with tears and perfume. This time by a “sinful” woman. For this woman, her offering also becomes her healing. Her offering to Jesus brought to her both forgiveness and salvation. (Luke 7:36–50)
As you consider what you have to offer back to God, realize your offering can make you more aware of who Jesus is and who you are. It is a humbling experience. As we remember Jesus’ ultimate offering on the cross, we are humbled. And this humbling ushers us into awe and gratitude and leaves us prostrate at Jesus’ feet.
And it is there, that we find rest.
And it is there, that we find hope.
This article is a classic originally published in our early print magazines.