And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you will always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Why does Jesus say that? The last part – “in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Obviously He’s defending her, vindicating her actions; but why go so far? Why is this specific event worth telling alongside the Gospel throughout the world?
This act speaks of self-abandonment.
Some might use it as a way to defend lengthy praise-and-worship sessions and ward of the invasion of the terribly frightening “social gospel.” But Jesus isn’t lauding the woman in a general way – “It’s always better to engage in acts of worshipful devotion than to do anything else.” Neither is He dismissing benevolence.
Christ is thinking of His impending death, after which He will be corporeally parted from his disciples (save for a few special post-resurrection appearances). But his disciples are not. Christ understands the Father’s purpose for Him and for the world. The disciples have yet to see clearly.
Who knows whether this woman truly understood Christ would be crucified in two days (for surely he had announced it often enough), or whether her tears were birthed out of simple, deep devotion? But her actions pointed to His death – that event toward which His entire life was oriented. And He defended her, for whether she knew it or not, her actions were aligned with God’s purpose – they spoke of God’s mission.
May ours do the same.