Jesus and the disciples were enjoying down time before their Passover gathering at the home of Lazarus, the one Jesus raised from the dead. Unnoticed, a woman entered with a jar. She stood behind Jesus reclining at the table, broke the jar and poured the expensive oil on his head.
The woman Mark does not name is probably Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Some think the confusion between John’s story (12:1-8) and Mark’s comes from Mark’s storytelling as he contrasts Mary and Judas. Don’t get sidetracked. Stay focused on her action and others’ reaction. The woman is focused on Jesus, but others are focused on the waste.
“What a waste!” some said. Before you point a finger, think about taking a year’s worth of your take-home pay and splurging on a thank you gift to the surgeon who saved your loved one’s life. Would it be irresponsible or generous?
The problem is that there is no formula here; only Jesus’ response: “She has done a beautiful thing.” The story reminds us that there is a time when waste is generous and hoarding is closed-hearted. There is a time when pouring it on is better than giving up a drop or two. There is a time when monetary value is irrelevant and only the heart can measure the gift.
Who would I have been in this scene? One of the indignant ones who saw the waste? One of the quiet ones waiting for Jesus’ response? Or wishing I had thought of doing such a “beautiful thing?” Remember, Jesus taught that you lose what you save and you gain what you give up.
Following Jesus to the cross makes me realize I need more lessons about useful waste. Jesus poured out his life and no one who receives new life from him ever calls it waste.