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. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “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. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” (Matthew 26:6-13)
In this meaningful gesture, a woman (John’s gospel identifies her as Mary) graciously and generously anoints Jesus with a jar of costly ointment. Her act is an act of adoration and care. Her act is also reverent and holy. Most of all, her act is rich with symbolism and foreshadowing, as Jesus soon points out. She is preparing him for his upcoming burial.
Observing all of this, do the disciples commend, honor and praise her for this significant and meaningful act? No. They accuse her of being wasteful- and even shameful- because she did not sell the perfume and use the money to help the poor. Jesus then asks them, “Why do you trouble the woman?”
Oh my goodness, how often could Jesus ask us this question? How often have we misinterpreted someone’s actions and assumed the worst? What we see is always only part of the whole picture. We often do not know details that would significantly affect our understanding. We then may have a tendency to judge a questionable act unfairly or negatively, instead of choosing to see it in the best light. We should try to remain aware that we don’t always know the full truth.
One area I must turn from is assigning intention. This is when I say such things as, “She’s only doing that because…” “He doesn’t really mean what he says…” “I don’t know why her parents would allow her to…” Instead of granting the benefit of the doubt, I can easily jump to my own critical conclusions.
There is one more lesson for us here. If the disciples had known how short their time with Jesus would be, they would have joined the woman. Up to the very end, they tried to deny that there would be a burial. Our time with one another is precious, too. We have better things to do in this short time together than to criticize and complain about one another!
Are you talking to ME?
Today Jesus is asking, “Why do you trouble the woman?”
Can you recall a time when you made an incorrect assumption of someone? Has another person misjudged your actions? What did you learn from these moments? In what ways does Jesus give you new perspectives on what is important? In this precious and short time together, how might you regard others as sacred? How might you remember to shine the best light on a situation?
Why do you trouble the woman?