While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9
What an interesting place for this story. Jesus just finished discussing all of the terrible things that would happen in the future. And then a woman poured expensive perfume all over him. The talk of ugliness is juxtaposed with an act of beauty.
I think the two are related. But the first thing all of this makes me wonder is why Jesus said there had to be so many hard times. Why does the path to his glorious return have to be paved with trials?
I guess the real question here is why do we have to go through so many trials and disappointments? I’ve been reading a great book lately, “Grand Weaver” by Ravi Zacharias. In in Zacharias shows us eloquently how God has a design behind each one of our lives, and that we can trust the process. This is one of my favorite passages so far:
“…at the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender. Nobody escapes. Your heart will become coarse and desensitized, be crushed under the weight of disappointment, or be made tender by that which makes the heart of God tender as well.”
Reading this really impacted my life. Because it made me see that I harden my heart when things hurt me, instead of letting the circumstances soften my heart.
On Dec. 22, 1998, my mother passed away unexpectedly.
Ever since that time, I won’t let myself think of my mom, or that time. I close myself off.
And I never could understand why my mother had to die. Other people might say they found something good in their tragedy. Not me. I just want my mom back, want her to see how beautifully her grandchildren are growing, want her to experience milestones with me. I’ve never stopped missing her. I couldn’t see what good there could be in her not being here.
But now I can see something else. I can see that there is benefit in experiencing emotional pain. The pain that I carry around in my heart helps me to treasure the relationships I have more. It compels me to reach out and touch others in distress. It makes me feel compassionate towards others in their troubles.
It helps me understand the cross more.
God has a plan for all of us to create more tender hearts in all of us.
That is why the story of the woman above is more meaningful. I can’t help but think that the woman would not have been so generous unless her heart had been made tender by heartbreak in the past. Her life had been a journey up to that point, and her inner pain welled up and caused her to pour herself out in sacrificial giving to Jesus.
The word Jesus used to describe the woman’s act is kalós, which means “attractively good; good that inspires (motivates) others to embrace what is lovely (beautiful, praiseworthy).”
The beautiful act of service performed by this woman would inspire others through the ages to perform beautiful acts of service as well.
And that is what I want to leave you with this Thanksgiving week. I charge you to serve in gratitude, because you have Jesus, a place of succor, when you are poor in spirit.
Has life been painful? Don’t shut yourself off to the pain. Experience it, weep over it, and then let it well up in you and compel you to reach out to others, and pour yourself out on their behalf.
There is ugliness in the world, but it can create beauty.
And that is God’s design.