Jesus Rebukes Redistribution
A woman, surely a sinner, but one who knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, wanted to express her effulgent gratitude and admiration with a gift.
And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box and poured it on his head.
She had probably worked very hard to save the money it took for her to purchase such precious ointment. She was singular in her purpose as she broke open the container and tenderly anointed the head of the Man whom she knew was her Savior and Redeemer.
And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?
Now we don’t know exactly who were the “some,” but we do know that Judas Iscariot held the purse strings among the Apostles. Perhaps it was he, and others, who protested the Lord’s anointing as a waste. As apostles and exemplars of the Word, they were charged with caring for the poor. Many of these men came from poverty themselves, and all were well acquainted with privation during their travels.
For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
Those in the Lord’s company, men of God, were angry that a woman had used something dear, which belonged to her, to perform a loving and selfless act. They were angry because, in being stuck in their role as providers to paupers, they forgot that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has the power to save, not the physical sustenance of the needy, upon which they had fixated. They had the impulse to confiscate the woman’s expensive ointment to do that which they thought would be for the greater good. They, like so many well-intentioned people, wanted to take something that didn’t belong to them and redistribute it for their ends.
And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me.
God the Eternal Father and Jesus Christ are the authors of the Plan of Salvation. They are also the authors of agency. Only through having complete liberty to choose between good and evil could God’s children qualify for the blessings of Salvation. This means that men and women cannot be compelled to do what others, even the Apostles, even Jesus Christ Himself, think is the right thing to do. Jesus was telling the relatively inexperienced Apostles, that there are works greater than providing for the physical sustenance of another. The spiritual needs of the individual are eternally more important. The woman had been endowed by her Creator with the unalienable right to do whatsoever she wanted with the pricey spikenard inasmuch as her actions did not interfere with the life of another.
For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good:but me ye have not always.
And here Jesus extends his teaching into a principle more valuable than money, comfort, or an alabaster box with expensive ointment: Those acts, rituals, ceremonies, which tie us symbolically-literally, in the case of the woman-to Diety, have the power to change and improve the worshiper in ways that are indelible. The increased spiritual understanding and enlightenment that the woman enjoyed as she tenderly poured ointment on Jesus’ head, the feeling of being in the presence of God, and the sanctification of of body and heart, goes further to promote eternal progression and happiness than any amount of alms or charitable giving to the poor. The Apostles would always have the poor to care for. Gifts which fill the appetites of the impoverished are fleeting, and in constant need of replenishment. But to act upon the testimony of Jesus Christ can fill the coffers of the heart for a lifetime.
She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.
Jesus prophesies of His death and burial. But He also emphasizes that the gift of the woman was acceptable unto Him. She did the best she could with what she had. And it was hers with which to do.
Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
The example of the woman with the ointment is a memorial to a tender act of worship; an offering of the heart. It is also a memorial to the gentle assertion of Jesus Christ, the author of liberty, that we may worship how we see fit, and do what we will with that which belongs to us. The woman chose, with her broken heart and contrite spirit, a token of love. It was her ointment, and it was her unalienable right to do so.
By Marjorie Haun 5/6/12