While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
The story of the woman who anoints Jesus with expensive perfume is found in three of the four Gospels. Only in the Gospel of John is she given a name: Mary.
Scholars have argued over her identity. Some believe she could have been Mary Magdalene. Others argue that she was Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead.
In the end, her identity matters less than what she did.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem against the wishes of his followers, who are convinced that his going there will be his undoing. He'd begun to talk about his impending death, despite their rebuking him for doing so, and trying to change the subject.
But this woman doesn't avoid that conversation. In fact, she takes a jar of perfume that she'd been saving, breaks open the glass jar that it had been sealed in, and in an extravagant and shocking gesture, pours it on Jesus to anoint him "for burial."
This perfume was worth, according to the text, 300 denarii, which calculates roughly to $15,000. It was most likely something she had been saving for a dowry, or to ensure she didn't fall into abject poverty.
She extravagantly poured it all because she knew what Jesus was about to do was even more extravagant.
Acting with a Spirit-led kind of courage, this woman poured out her future, entrusting it to Jesus, believing that whatever he was about to do was so important and transformative that she wanted to be all in.
Of course, some of the disciples didn't get it. They were done with all the talk of dying. They wanted to talk about other things--like who was going to be seated next to Jesus when he ruled over the world.
But Jesus said of her and her gesture:
Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
The questions that we are compelled to answer as we reflect on this story is simply this:
"Do I trust Jesus with my future like the woman in this story? Am I willing to pour it out on him, and let my own desires be crucified?"
May you find the courage to trust Jesus completely and be ready to let go of all that is keeping you from fully following him. May you pour out your future in gratitude, knowing that there is no offering more extravagant than the one Jesus' made for you, for me and for all of Creation.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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