Read Mark 14:3-9
3 Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head.
4 Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. 5 “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly.
6 But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? 7 You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” (NLT)
How sad it might be if we saw life as a rather grim, dogged affair of doing our duty. Ensuring we take no risks, avoid extravagance, and not get too carried away with our emotions. It would be a sad sort of discipleship. Certainly not one practised by this woman in our text. She was frowned upon by those who lived by a creed of purse-lipped prudence. And they were right: it was an extravagant gesture and the money could have been put to good use.
But they missed the point. Adoration is not calculating; it does not carefully check the accounting ledgers. It does not always make sense. True, there is a time for restraint and careful consideration, yet also a time for extravagant abandon.
This doesn’t just apply to how we follow Jesus. It affects how we live more generally. Are we so anxious, so careful, so self-denying, that we fail to give ourselves the occasional treat? It need not mean lavish expenditure and certainly does not involve irresponsible self-indulgence at the expense of those in need.
However, there is a time and place to give ourselves a treat, to enjoy something purely for the sake of that enjoyment. And the same goes in giving treats to others. That woman in our story gave something special to Jesus. It was impractical and extravagant and didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But it was a sincere expression of love and adoration. So many were making demands of him, yet here was one person who made no such demands but merely offered extravagant love. And Jesus, pardon the pun, soaked it all up.