One of the more poignant moments in the life of Jesus was that day in Bethany when a woman came into the house where he was having dinner with friends and anointed his head and feet with expensive perfume. You’ll remember that his disciples were offended by what they considered a wasteful use of precious ointment. They offered the crass suggestion that it would’ve been better to sell it give the money to the poor. I am quite sure that Jesus looked them straight in the eye as he asked, ”Why are you criticizing this woman for such a beautiful expression of devotion?” (Matt 26:10). Then he explained to them that by her anointing him with ointment she had prepared him for burial. What she had done was so significant that it would be told as a memorial to her wherever the message of his death and resurrection was proclaimed.
What exactly was it that was so memorable in her action? It’s true that the perfume was worth a year’s wages but Jesus saw something more important. Was it not the deeper significance of her devotion? As he shared with her the experience he was moved by the sincerity and affection of the noble act. The disciples saw nothing but a meaningless waste of valuable oil. Judas, the traitor, thought he had a better idea: Sell it!
What a different response by Jesus! Here was a woman with the quiet audacity to enter uninvited into a house where others were dining and to anoint their guest with precious ointment. Jesus understood the depth of love that moved her to take this unusual step. He shared with her the importance of the moment. While others saw the act, Jesus grasped what it meant to her and was one with her in that holy moment.
The significance of Jesus’ response on this occasion is important for those who want to live as Christ did. It is quite clear that it calls to look beyond whatever the act itself may be. Those who live on the surface enjoy their noninvolvement because it provides them time to pursue their own interests. Jesus was constantly considering what was happening in the life of the other. Her devotion touched him at a profound level. He valued her by identifying what she had just done as “a beautiful expression of devotion.”
The model for us is clear. Things are not what they may appear to be on the surface. It is beneath the surface that we find reality. A flower on her birthday is, well, far more than a flower; it is an expression of love. Acts reveal what is going on but what they mean must be discovered on a deeper level. Like Jesus, may we pay less attention to what others may do or say and focus more on what their word or act reveals at a deeper level