The Correct Response

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It was an expensive gesture.

Just two days before His death, Jesus reclined in the house of Simon the Leper. We can assume that Simon wasn’t a leper any longer, but he isn’t the focus of the story. As Jesus sat at dinner with His disciples, a woman came into the room. She might not have been noticed if she had been a servant in the house, intent on putting down some delicacy before the guests or filling up their cups.

When she broke open the flask she was carrying and poured its contents on the Lord’s head, we can almost imagine the collective gasp that filled the room along with the scent of perfume.

I was traveling from Lahore to Shikarpur, Pakistan. As we landed, the man sitting beside me opened his briefcase, took out a bottle of cologne and doused me with it. Honestly, I had showered and to this day I have no idea why he did it!

In this story from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus made the reason behind the woman’s actions abundantly clear. “She has done a beautiful thing to me...When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matthew 26:11-13).

What I wouldn’t give to know what this woman knew! Had she been listening to Jesus over the three years of His ministry and understood what the disciples still didn’t get—that Jesus was about to die? Or was this simply an act of surrender and sacrifice that God timed perfectly to coincide with His Son’s death without any awareness on the woman’s part of her role in the story? We don’t know.

We do know that what she sacrificed was expensive—likely part of her dowry. It was nothing to be given away lightly, let alone poured out. Some thought it a waste. If she was going to get rid of it she should have sold it and given the money to the poor. Jesus, who ministered to the poor as most others didn’t, would surely approve of the disciples’ concern.

Not this time.

This was intimate worship reserved for the Lord. It belonged to no one else. The connection with the Lord’s death was significant, but even without that, it was as great a testimony to this woman’s commitment to Christ as anyone could have made. She gave her most precious gift to the One who deserved it most, as an act of worship.

My “gut” feeling is that this woman had been paying attention to what Jesus had repeated about His death. That Jesus would connect her act to the message of the gospel tells me that her action was her response to that message, and an example of how we need to respond to that message.

I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (26:13).

Jesus gave everything to provide salvation for us. The only correct response to that amazing act is to give everything back to Him in thanksgiving for what He has done for us.

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