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. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? (Mark 14:3-4)
This woman has done an extravagant thing. She has anointed Jesus with a costly jar of perfume. For the most part, Jesus has lived a non-extravagant lifestyle. Luke tells us that Jesus did have the support of a group of women who helped finance what was needed for him to do his work. Still, he would wander from town to town with a need to find a place to sleep and food to eat. Much of his work was to give healing to the hurting, food to the hungry, sight to the blind and even life to the dead. His ministry seemed to be always be open to finding those who were hurting or needy and finding ways to bring them healing and hope. So, in Mark’s story there is this natural sense that extravagance is just out of character and therefore must be wrong.
But when this woman decides to do something special, pouring perfume on Jesus’ head, to everyone (except Jesus) this act makes no sense. They are incensed at the lack or responsibility that this woman demonstrates. Jesus on the other hand sees discernment. This woman knows what her options are, who Jesus is and discerns that honoring the presence of Jesus in this situation involves anointing his head with ointment. Some other time, honoring Jesus will involve feeding the poor. But not tonight.
All of us have been given assets. Some of them seem mundane. Some may seem extravagant. Plus, we can use the mundane for something essential, helpful and healing. We can also use the mundane for something extravagant. Think of a candle. When the power is out from a storm and we need light in the dark, lighting a candle provides something needed and basic. Light the same candle on a table for dinner and it sets an atmosphere of something special, maybe even romantic. It is not lighting the candle alone that does this. It is the circumstance and the intent of the person with the match. Knowing what to do when is essential to a faithful life. Using what we have at our disposal to honor God in each and every act is the basic call of discipleship.
Your assets have come from God. You can use them a lot of different ways. In most cases, we have more than one choice to choose from. Committing our assets to honoring Jesus and discerning how best to do this is the stuff of life. And in this case, a woman at Bethany has given us a pretty good model for doing it well.