Matthew 26:6-13 – More Than Meets the Eye

Jack Klugman as “Quincy, M.E.” (1976-1983)

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (NIV)

When I was a teenager there was a show on TV called “Quincy.”  Quincy was a coroner.  Every episode was him performing an autopsy on someone who appeared to have a rather normal death.  But Quincy always found something suspicious and spent his time prying into people’s lives to confirm his investigation.  His boss and the police chief would chide and warn him saying, “Leave it alone, Quincy.”  Quincy’s typical response was: “But I can’t leave it alone.  There’s more here than what meets the eye!”

Indeed, there is more going on in today’s Gospel lesson than what meets the eye. The Apostle John identifies the woman as Mary (John 12:1-11), a woman with a sordid background who had her life transformed through meeting Jesus.  Now, near the end of Christ’s life as he was about to enter Jerusalem and be arrested, tried, tortured, and killed, this woman, Mary, is aware of what is happening when others are not.  Her own brokenness cracked open to her the true reality of life.

The surface event itself is a touching and tender moment in history.  This woman, whom everyone knew was a damaged person, took a high-end perfume and broke the entire thing open. She then proceeded to anoint Christ’s feet with it.  You can imagine the aroma which filled the entire house with expensive perfume for all to smell.  Giving what she had to Jesus, Mary demonstrated the path of true discipleship.

Yet, that is not all, because there is more here than what meets the eye:

  • The broken jar of perfume shows us the brokenness of the woman and our need to be broken (Matthew 5:3-4).
  • The woman used an extraordinary and extravagant amount of perfume, picturing her overflowing love for Jesus (John 20:1-18).
  • The woman poured the perfume on the head of Jesus, and she herself used her hair as the application (according to John); hair is a rich cultural symbol for submission and respect (1 Corinthians 11:14).
  • The perfume directs us to the death of Jesus (John 19:38-42).
  • The perfume highlights for us the aroma of Christ to the world (2 Corinthians 2:15-17).
  • There is more to the disciples’ response than mere words about perfume; the Apostle John specifically names Judas as questioning this action – the one who is not actually concerned for the poor (Matthew 26:15).
  • The woman and the disciples, or Judas and Mary, serve as spiritual contrasts: Mary opens herself to the sweet aroma of Christ; Judas plain stinks.
  • The perfume presents a powerful picture of the upcoming death of Christ, for those with eyes to see; he was broken and poured out for our salvation (Luke 23:26-27:12).

Christianity was never meant to be a surface religion which only runs skin deep.  The follower of Christ is meant to be profoundly transformed, inside and out, so that there is genuine healing, spiritual health, and authentic concern for the poor and needy.  Keeping up appearances is what the Judas’s of this world do.  But the Mary’s among us dramatically point us to Jesus with their tears, their humility, their openness, and their love.

In this contemporary environment of fragmented human ecology, our first step toward wholeness and integrity begins with a posture of giving everything we have – body, soul, and spirit – to the Lord Jesus.  Methinks Quincy was on to something.

Loving Lord Jesus, my Savior, and my friend, you have gone before us and pioneered deliverance from an empty way of life and into a life of grace and gratitude.  May I and all your followers, emulate the path of the woman Mary and realize the true freedom which comes from emptying oneself out for you.  Amen.

The Effects of Humanity’s Fall

            The entire world is profoundly broken.  Everywhere people are ‘messed-up’.  Anywhere one goes, whether it is school, work, home and even church, there is institutional brokenness expressed in systems or organizing structures that contain elements of bondage instead of freedom.  It does not take a Christian to observe and know that things just do not seem right.
            The Bible’s description of this reality goes back to the fall of humanity.  Satan, the devil, led the original persons, Adam and Eve, into disobedience of God.  Satan tempted Eve to doubt whether God really had her best interests at mind; to question the truthfulness of God’s Word; and, to wonder about the wisdom of listening to God (Genesis 3:1-5).  Adam just flat out chose to disobey God, and, so, the entire world changed (Genesis 3:16-17). 
            Immediately, everything was different in the world and with people.  The choice to disobey God brought feelings of fear and shame; a loss of fellowship with God; hiding from God; a bent to pervert the truth; the propensity for the genders to try and dominate each other; expulsion from the garden; and, physical death (Genesis 3:7-24).  That is quite a list of downright icky stuff.  No wonder the world is messed up.
            The fall of humanity still affects us all.  It has brought not only physical death, but spiritual death.  That means we are alienated from God, in rebellion against him, and enslaved to our own passions and desires (Isaiah 1:2-6; Romans 2:14-15; Ephesians 2:1-3).  We are alienated from one another as persons by having continual bents toward discord, suspicion, and jealousy instead of love and trust (Romans 1:29-31; James 3:14-16).  We are even alienated and totally out of touch with ourselves by either loving ourselves as gods or hating ourselves with inordinate emotional masochism (Philippians 2:21; 2 Timothy 3:2-4).  In short, we are selfish people who experience separation from God, others, and self.
            If this is the true reality of humanity, then it is depressing, discouraging, and damaging.  Who, then, will rescue us from this death?  Thanks to God who has given us victory through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 7:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:57).  The good news is that through the death and resurrection of Jesus the curse has been reversed.  He has brought us restoration to our original place of fellowship with God.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  Only through him is there hope for humanity (John 14:6).  Freedom, therefore, involves knowledge, honesty, and sincere decisions of faith and love whereby truth is applied to life.
            Jesus offered himself for us so that we might live and no longer be separated from God, others, and self.  He has brought us reconciliation.  In him we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (2 Corinthians 5:16-19; Ephesians 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3).  Jesus is the rightful ruler of the universe, and is able to make all things work together for good in the life of his people (Philippians 2:9-11; Romans 8:28-29).
            The essence, spirit, and purpose of church ministry, therefore, is to come alongside people trapped in their cycles of  brokenness and tell them of the good news of Jesus to deliver from all the crud.  Anything short of this is not really Christian ministry; it is just doing stuff.  The church is, then, to call out sin where it resides in sinful structures and not only within individuals.  But we are to do this with all the graciousness that behooves children of God, and always with the remedy of the cross of Christ.


            Yes, the world is terribly askew.  But God demonstrated his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  We need a Savior.  God provided One.  Jesus is the answer.  Are you in touch with the ways you are separated from God, others, and self?  Are you aware of the ways in which your church has an unhealthy separation from the world?  In what ways can you and your church apply the love of God to broken people and systems in your community?  What will it take to reach the un-churched and de-churched in your families and neighborhoods?  
            Having the church ask the right questions is the first step toward bringing true Christian ministry to bear upon the great need of the world.  Don’t express your fallen nature by wasting your time debating personal preferences in the church; spend your energies and prayers in reaching people for Jesus.  The fall does not have to define us; we can get back up again because of Jesus Christ.