Devotion: Open our eyes to your extravagant love

April 9, 2020

Devotion written provided by Rev. Susan Roddey, Director of Spiritual Life 

“Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.” (Matthew 21:6-7)

Imagine this scene.  Jesus is in a leper’s home sitting at his table.  This in itself is a scandalous act which according to Jewish law defiles Jesus.  As he is sitting there with his disciples, a woman walks in – another scandalous act for a woman to walk into a room of men – goes over to Jesus and performs a most intimate act.  Imagine her tenderly lifting over Jesus’ head this lovely alabaster jar full of precious ointment and letting it extravagantly pour over him.  Imagine him with his head slightly bent down letting it run through his hair, dripping onto his face and down his neck perfuming him and the room with its delicate scent.  Startling.  Outrageous. Beautiful.

But the disciples didn’t think it was beautiful.  They were completely oblivious to the meaning of this act and erupted with angry words, “Why this waste?  For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.”  The disciples cut down the woman for being so frivolous.  Then Jesus speaks up for her saying, “Why do you trouble the woman?  She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial.”

Now before we are too critical of the disciples, we have to remember that they still had no idea of what was to come.  They had internalized Jesus’ message of caring for the poor, and probably saw this as some strange sentimental act on the woman’s part.  It would be like taking a bottle of the world’s most expensive perfume (which in case you were wondering currently is Clive Christian No. 1 Imperial Majesty which sells for $205,000 dollars) and in the disciples’ eyes just squandering it away.  Think how many meals for the poor that could buy.

But for the woman it was perhaps her most precious possession and she so loved Jesus she wanted to anoint him with it.  She may have had no idea that Jesus was going to be crucified, but Jesus knew the meaning of what she was doing and it touched him deeply.  This story reminds us that sometimes we don’t look beyond the surface level to see the meaning of an act.  We can’t see what is beautiful because we only consider the practical.  A sacred act often isn’t practical.  To see the holy, we have to be willing to let go of our assumptions and be open to the ways love transforms reality.

Prayer:  Open our eyes to your extravagant love, O God, so that we may not miss those moments when it pours out into our lives. Amen.