In the traditional church calendar, this week is Holy Week—the period between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Each day, Christians reflect on the acts of Christ and the events leading unto his death, burial, and resurrection.

During this celebration, many recognize the stories of Jesus riding into Jerusalem, overturning tables in the temple, or breaking bread at the last supper. Yet amid these important moments, there is one description that is easy to overlook: Christ’s anointing at Bethany.

This quiet, profound work was accomplished by Mary (the sister of Lazarus) in the house of Simon the leper. Within days of Jesus’s death, Mary “took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the head of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair” (Jn. 12:3a).

Matthew 26:8-9 describes the disciples as indignant at this gesture; counting it wasteful and remarking the ointment “could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” Jesus rebukes them saying, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me” (Matt. 26:10). This woman’s anointing has prepared the Messiah’s body for burial (Mark 14:8).

Mary pours out the expensive perfume understanding that the priceless blood of Jesus will be poured out for her forgiveness. She breaks the flask above his head knowing that it will soon be pierced by thorns; comprehending his body will be broken in the stead of sinners. Even so, she is not only scoffed at but scolded for her actions (v.5).

Have you ever heard the voice of the world whisper, “Why this waste?” as you offer up that which is most dear to you to the Lord? (Matt. 26:8).

Do family members question the value of your ministry service? Do friends scoff at use of your gifts for advancement of God’s kingdom rather than your own? Do you find yourself staring back in the mirror questioning whether a heart surrendered in obedience to Christ is worth losing all earthly treasures?

In his commentary on Matthew 26, theologian Charles H. Spurgeon noted, “When you do the best you can do, from the purest motives, and your Lord accepts your service, do not expect that your brethren will approve all your actions. If you do, you will be greatly disappointed.”[1]

A life poured out for Christ seems like the biggest waste in the world to those who do not know him. The world scoffed—and still scoffs—at the blood of Christ poured out at the cross. How much more will they ridicule his followers for pouring out their lives for him?

Even those who do know and love him sometimes do not understand the extent of certain sacrifices, let alone the value of them. Yet we can rest assured that our obedience does not go unseen by God. For we know “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Jesus Christ not only approves of a heart trusting in his work and captured by his glory; he calls it beautiful.

Beloved, as you meditate on the events of Holy Week, may you remember: “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). Recall that “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34).

This week and always, pour out your life and love to the one who poured out his for you.

[1] Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. “Commentary on Matthew 26”. “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible”. 2011.