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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

GIVING YOUR VERY BEST

Matt 26:6-13 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto Him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on His head, as He sat at meat. But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, He said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman, for she hath wrought a good work upon Me. For ye have the poor always with you; but Me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. (Also See Mark 14:3-9)

Bible scholars have debated over the identity of the woman mentioned in the lesson text; some contending that it was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. However, another anointing of Jesus by this Mary, is mentioned in the gospel according to John (See Chapter 12:1-8). There seems to be too many differences between these two accounts for it to be the same incident. According to Matthew and Mark, this anointing took place only two days before the Passover, it was done by an unnamed woman, it took place in the house of Simon the leper, and the woman anointed Jesus' head. The anointing event recorded in John took place six days before the Passover, it was performed by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, it took place in the home of Lazarus and his sisters, and Mary anointed Jesus' feet. Even if these events were the same, their teaching would remain the same. The reason for Jesus' anointing served the same purpose in both events. Jesus allowed it because it was to prepare His body for death and burial. Therefore any lesson derived from one could very well apply to the other.

This lesson begins when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper. Although we know nothing more about this man called Simon, he is assumed by many to have been healed of this dreaded disease by Jesus some time prior to this event, and was at the present time completely healed. Some also believe that he was a relative of Lazarus and his sisters. Regardless, Jesus had accepted his hospitality and was presently sitting at meat, partaking of a meal. It seems as this was taking place, a woman came in having an alabaster box of very precious ointment. Alabaster was a form of gypsum, resembling marble, but was considerably softer in texture, and easily carved with ornate designs and formed into various containers such as vases. What is referred to here, as an alabaster box, was probably a vase-like container. In this container, the woman had a very precious ointment, which Mark referred to as spikenard (Vs. 3). It was precious because of its great value, which, according to Mark 14:5, was valued at more than three hundred pence.

From the alabaster box containing the very precious ointment, the woman poured it on His head, as He sat at meat. Covering all aspects of this incident, we note that in Mark's account he wrote that the woman broke the box before pouring some of its contents on Jesus' head (Vs 3), which probably meant that she broke the seal of the container which kept the quality of the ointment and its aroma as pure as possible. Although this act of anointing the head of a respected visitor to one's home with an aromatic ointment may seem strange, yet during this age it was considered to be the highest of compliments paid to a guest. It was well known that the greater the value of the ointment, the higher the expression of respect and praise. Spikenard was a very costly oil that most bible scholars believe was imported from Asian countries - probably from the area known today as India. Its fragrance was praised by Solomon (Song of Sol. 1:12; 4:13-14). The anointing with fragrant ointments served two different purposes during this era. It served to pay respect to a visitor into one's home, but it was also used to prepare a dead body for burial, giving it a sweet smelling aroma to mask the odor of a fleshly decay.

But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. Some contend that the one expressing their personal indignation for Jesus' anointing of precious ointment, was Judas Iscariot, who was the apostle identified in the similar event recorded by John (See John 12:4-5). The reason expressed there was that the ointment should have been sold and the proceeds given to aid the poor - the same as noted in the lesson text. However, John records, by inspiration, the real motive Judas Iscariot had in that incident. He did not care for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein (John 12:6). This reason could have vary well been the same in the lesson currently being studied.

It is well that we pause here to give consideration to this question: Why do people take it upon themselves to analyze and criticize the benevolence of others. Most seem to speak out about the lack of charity of others. But some, as it is in this instance, are highly critical of others giving, what they deem to be, excessive time, talent, money, and property in order to uphold, establish, and proclaim the cause of Christ here on earth. As long as one is properly providing for himself, his family, and other civic responsibilities, is it possible to give too much in the name of Christ Jesus? Are we to reprimand those that are more charitable than we are? Maybe, instead of criticizing others that give more, we should do our best to increase our acts of charity and give as they are giving. From the lesson text, this we learn from our Savior: We are not to judge the conscienceous acts of charity given by others, either to the needs of mankind, or to the propagation of the cause of Christ.

Noting the hypocritical criticism of this woman made by His disciples, Jesus sternly reproved them by asking: Why trouble ye the woman? They troubled, or mentally upset her, by accusing her of using the precious ointment in a sinful manner. Jesus immediately justified her actions by telling them that she hath wrought a good work upon Me. Out of a deep-rooted love for Jesus, and by using that which she had, she demonstrated a charitable work that was pleasing to our Savior. Justifying her actions even further, Jesus told His disciples that ye have the poor always with you; but Me ye have not always. Although the disciples did not fully realize the death that Jesus would soon face, He told them that they would have numerous future opportunities to extend relief to the poor and needy, yet only a few days remained for them to demonstrate their love for Him. Signifying the preparation necessary for His slain body, He added: For in that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial. Mark gives a slightly different comment to justify the woman's actions. He wrote that, She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying (Mark 14:8).

In both Matthew 26:13 and Mark 14:9, we find this prophetic announcement by Christ Jesus regarding this woman that anointed Him with precious ointment as a matter of loving gratitude, but also served to prepare His body for an appropriate burial a few days hence. Jesus said that this act would forever be remembered and would serve as an eternal memorial of her charitable kindness. Her example of devoted, unwavering love for the Son of God, our Savior would be proclaimed to whomever and wherever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world (Mark 14:9). Greater love for Him had never been expressed throughout His lifetime here on earth. She gave Christ Jesus the best she had to offer. She stood then, and stands today, as a memorial example that we should forever follow. We owe our Lord and Savior the best we have to offer. Whether it be during our lifetime here on earth, the talents we have been given by our Heavenly Father, or the physical blessings that we are privileged to possess under our stewardship - the very best of all this, we owe to Him. With this in mind, who can express indignation, as did Jesus' disciples, and say that giving our best to Christ Jesus and His church is a waste?