Paul Tillich wrote that genuine love will always appear to some as a kind of extravagant waste. Love does not follow the cold utilitarian calculus of a spreadsheet. Love does not perform cost benefit analyses before giving itself away: “That perfume could have been sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor!” The logic of love makes its own math, and always overflows the bounds of the ledger book. Love is priceless.
Reverend Jeremy Troxler
6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,[a] 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Tradition holds that it was on Wednesday that this woman emptied her flask of perfume on Jesus. We can’t be sure because the different gospel accounts were not all arranged chronologically. What we can be sure of is the message she sent, and the meaning for us today.
It is as simple as this. She loved Jesus, and she did not hesitate when given the opportunity to show Him. Truth be told, she made the opportunity and she did not care what anyone thought. What she did was extravagant. It was not “measured” nor “reserved.” In breaking the neck of the alabaster flask, she crossed the Rubicon. You see, that meant there would not be anything to save what was not used. Clearly, she was not looking to save some for later.
We have no idea what this woman’s enneagram number was, what her DiSC profile looked like, how she measured up on StrengthsFinder 2.0. All we know is that she was not going to be denied the opportunity to pour out her love—every drop of it, for Jesus.
I would suggest there are really only two options on what we can do with this story.
- We can believe the disciples who shrieked, “What a waste!”
- We can believe Jesus who said, “she has done a beautiful thing to me.”
Perhaps Paul was thinking of this story when he wrote in Ephesians 5:2…
2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
In a matter of days, Jesus Himself will be “broken” and He will pour out His life—every drop of it. And He will do it because He loves you.
Let’s allow Paul’s prayer for us in Ephesians 3:14-19 to be our own today. I’ve changed the pronouns so that you can pray this prayer for yourself.
14 I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower me with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in my heart as I trust in him. My roots will grow down into God’s love and keep me strong. 18 And may I have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May I experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then I will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Can you imagine the scent that filled Simon's house that night! As they wiped up the excess which had dripped on the floor, it only sent the fragrance to every nook and cranny of the home, and into every piece of clothing each person was wearing. That scent went home with them.
Grab your favorite perfume or your favorite cologne and put some on today, even though you are not “going out.” Every time you catch the scent, remember that Jesus suffered the cruelty of Holy Week because His love for you is without measure.