A Beautiful Thing for Me (Mark 14.1–11)


Have you ever seen the bumper sticker, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty”? It makes me sick. It’s full of the 1960s hippie sentimentality that I love to loathe. Unfortunately for my 1980s preppie cynicism, it’s biblical.

Mark 14.1–11 describes a beautiful kindness that a woman performed for Jesus. While Jesus was dining at the home of Simon the Leper, “a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” Now I don’t know about you, but the woman’s act seems pretty random and senseless, not to mention extravagantly wasteful.

Evidently, there were a few Georges in the room who complained along exactly those lines. “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” There’s a cold and seemingly irresistible logic to their argument, of course. Given the choice between burning a paycheck and signing it over to a worthy charity, I think most of us would choose to do the latter. After all, if we’re not going to enjoy the money, at least some unfortunate person should.

Right?

Wrong!

Here’s how Jesus hotly responded to the woman’s critics: “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

On several occasions, Jesus prophesied that he was going to Jerusalem to die (Mark 8.31–32, 9.31–32, and 10.32–34). Peter rebuked him for his prediction (8.32). The rest of the disciples simply didn’t understand it (9.32). This woman—and this woman alone—understood it and prepared for it. Knowing that Jesus would not be with her forever, she took the best that she had and gave it to him as a gift. It cost her a lot—a whole year’s wages. But I think this woman had learned what the Rich Young Ruler had not: Only when we give away all we have can our arms be open to receive all that Jesus has (Mark 10.29–31).

So, in the end, while kind and beautiful, this woman’s act turns out to be anything but random and senseless. It is, rather, an intentional, sensible act of worship directed at our entirely deserving Savior. According to Marva Dawn, worship is a royal waste of time. According to the cold, irresistible logic of economics it probably is, but not according to warm desirable logic of gratitude. Nothing is too good for Jesus. Not our valuables, nor our wages, and definitely not our lives. Since we can offer nothing less, let us offer Christ ourselves.

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