Why this waste of perfume? (Mark 14.4)
This story has confused me in the past. I wondered why Jesus was not being practical or cost effective with how resources are used. Jesus cared for the poor and the resale value of the perfume would have met many of the needs of the poor. Jesus seemed to be saying that it’s OK to pour out expensive and limited resources on Him. (Perhaps this was the justification used by the Church hundreds of years ago when it was building very expensive and ornate temples at the cost of taking care of the needs of the poor.)
But perhaps Jesus is saying that there will always be work to be done. No matter how much you do, there is always more. This world is broken so as much as we try to fill up the cistern, we can never fill it up because the cistern is cracked and the water constantly leaks out. Maybe the point of doing the good work is not so much to help Jesus (who needs our “help” as much as a mother needs her child to help wash the dishes) or to help others, but in doing the good work, we get closer to the heart of Jesus. We should avoid letting our focus be on accomplishment of a goal (which is a very western and capitalistic approach but that is a post for another day), but our focus in service should be to express our love for Jesus — to pour out the very best of what we have for Jesus in an extravagant lavish way, much like how the Father pours is grace and love out to us. In pouring out her expensive perfume for Jesus, this woman was going all-in with Jesus. Like Mary, she was choosing the finer thing. She was choosing to be present to Jesus and choosing to fully trust and surrender to Him.
What is my alabaster perfume that I’ve been saving all these years? What would it mean to pour this out onto Jesus’ head? What changes would need to happen so I would be willing to break the jar and pour all of it out, leaving behind what is rational and cost-effective in other people’s minds?
For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. (7:5-7).
“Our God is a God of comfort, and He is near to us in times of affliction. He does not leave His children to suffer alone but comforts us through the people around us. And out of the comfort and love we receive, we are able to comfort others as well” (SWIM).
“known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:9-10).
When I read today’s passage, I feel that my faith is very weak. I confess the Lord is my shepherd when I feel protected, guided, watched and cared. Simply, my faith is okay while things are going well. When things are not going well, maybe I am still okay for a while if it is temporary or if it is about minor things. I think God has a plan for me and God will fix me and my problems through hardships. However, when things are not really going well for a long time, I cry out. Why? What are you doing? Paul’s confession really challenges me – “known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” I feel I am still far away (not even close) to be a genuine Christian. What and how many things would he have gone through to confess like that? My Christian journey is not over yet. I felt that I have gone through many things, but maybe what I have to go through is much more than what I have gone through already. SIGH!!! However, it is not I who will keep going my journey. God will keep leading me. I will just walk like a mule walking following its master. The end will surely come and I will share my master’s happiness.