Six days before Jesus’s last Passover meal, the Gospel of Matthew gives us an account of when Jesus attended a dinner given in his honor. At this dinner party, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on him as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they couldn’t believe it—after all, she just emptied the equivalent of a year’s salary! They thought it would be better used for other purposes, such as helping the poor. At first glance, the phrase “pouring money down the drain” seems to perfectly apply here.
But there had to be a reason for her doing this, right? After all, Jesus came to her defense and let everyone know that she had done a beautiful thing. So why would she be so seemingly wasteful with her wealth? The answer rests in who this woman was and what she thought of Jesus.
We learn from the apostle John that the woman was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (yes, that Lazarus). These three siblings were close friends of Jesus’s. In fact, at another dinner party with Jesus in attendance, Mary got chastised then too! On that occasion, she chose to spend time hearing Jesus teach instead of helping Martha with all the preparations for their guests. And like he would do again in the future, Jesus defended her choice.
Back to that night… six days before Passover. To understand what Mary did, we need to remember what happened earlier… the time Mary chose to sit at Jesus’s feet… and the time she witnessed how Jesus brought her brother back to life… and all the times she and her siblings spent with Jesus. She had learned who he was. She saw evidence, time and time again, and came to believe Jesus was who he claimed to be. That’s why she so easily gave away what was treasured. It was not what was most valuable to her.
That act of pouring perfume on Jesus turned out to be prophetic, as it symbolized preparing someone for burial. The people at that dinner wouldn’t fully realize it at the time, but it would make sense in the near future. And why do we even know about this story? Simply because Mary spent time with Jesus and came to know who he was.
If you’re unsure of who Jesus is, are you willing to spend a little more time finding out? If you are a Jesus follower, how can you choose to be in his presence more? What would it look like to dedicate a portion of your time to sit at Jesus’s feet?