Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. (Mark 14:9)
Think for a moment of your annual salary. What might you be able to buy with the money you make in a year? Many of us could purchase a few cars, or take two decades’ worth of vacations, or put twenty percent down on a house. Now imagine taking that whole sum, gathering it up in your hands, and, in a moment, letting it go forever.
Welcome to the night of Jesus’s betrayal, when, “as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it on his head” (Mark 14:3). A year’s wages gone, poured from the hands of a woman too in love to care. She saw her Savior, and in the light of his face, she would gladly work a year or ten, if only to have something to sacrifice for his sake.
Anyone with clear spiritual vision could see that her heart was wholly, wonderfully his. But not everyone present had such vision.
While the woman poured her heart out, “there were some who said to themselves indignantly, ‘Why was the ointment wasted like that?’ For this ointment could have been sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor. And they scolded her” (Mark 14:4–5).
We’ve seen this before. It happened with children (Mark 10:13–16). It happened with blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46–52). Now it happens with this woman. Someone comes to Jesus, desperate and adoring, and receives a scolding from everyone except, well, Jesus. For those with unsmitten hearts, true worship always feels a bit threatening.
So threatening, in fact, that they give this worship another name: waste. “Why was the ointment wasted like that?” What an insult to this woman’s devotion. And yet, from another angle, what a sign that her heart truly belonged to another world, one whose Treasure had freed her from restless financial reckonings.
To the world, true worship will seem like a waste — of time, resources, talents, opportunities, potential. But not to Jesus.
While the knife edge of the crowd’s scolding still cut through the air, Jesus — beholder of hearts, defender of the humble — silenced all indignation: “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me” (Mark 14:6–7).
If the woman wanted to give her ointment away under normal circumstances, she may have been wise to sell it and apportion the proceeds among the poor. But these were not normal circumstances. The King had come. The Groom had arrived for his bride. The Son of God had put on flesh to be with us. And somehow, someway, the woman knew what disciples and crowds failed to grasp — that soon he would be gone. “You will not always have me.” And so, what the crowd called waste, he called beauty.
Do you know what Jesus finds most beautiful in this world? People willing to look like fools for him. Men and women unashamed to be known as lovers of him. Hearts that are manifestly and, in the world’s eyes, disturbingly devoted to him — and are willing to show it by pouring their choicest treasures at his feet. This, Jesus says, is “a beautiful thing.”
Jesus found her worship so beautiful, in fact, that he set it down as a memorial for all time: “She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:8–9). Wherever the gospel is proclaimed — from urban streets to unreached deserts to wherever we live — one woman’s love will be proclaimed along with it.
Our devotion to Jesus will not reach so far as this woman’s has and will. Christians half a world away — or even half a city away — will likely never know our name. But mark it down and never forget it: the worth of our worship will never be lost. What the world calls waste Jesus calls beauty, and he is not one to forget beauty. As the apostle Paul writes, “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8). Can we not then be sure that, whenever we pour out a jar of oil in worship to Jesus, he stands ready with a jar of his own to catch it?
The worth of our worship will also be felt among the living. We can scarcely imagine how much good may come to a family, a marriage, a neighborhood, or an office through one heart given undividedly to Jesus. Such a heart pours out blessing like the oil running through this woman’s fingers — and keeps pouring and pouring and pouring.
Hearts and lives like these are no waste. They are beautiful. And they will be felt and remembered forever.