Resources for the members of the United Church of God

The Broken Bottle Heard Around the World

You are here

The Broken Bottle Heard Around the World

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×

Did you know that Christ prophesied that one specific act by one specific woman would be preached about everywhere the gospel is preached in all the world?

It was near the end of Christ's ministry, and though He had become more plain and serious about His impending sacrifice, it seems His disciples still did not "get it." This was not what they expected of the promised Messiah—the conquering King prophesied in the Old Testament.

But at a dinner at Simon the leper's house, something extraordinary happened. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus—the Lazarus whom Christ had recently raised from the dead—this Mary did a surprising, extravagant and even seemingly foolish thing. We can find the story in Matthew 26:6-13 Matthew 26:6-13 [6] Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, [7] There came to him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. [8] But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? [9] For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. [10] When Jesus understood it, he said to them, Why trouble you the woman? for she has worked a good work on me. [11] For you have the poor always with you; but me you have not always. [12] For in that she has poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. [13] Truly I say to you, Wherever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman has done, be told for a memorial of her.
American King James Version×
, one of the three Gospel accounts that record this memorable incident.

"And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table" (Matthew 26:6-7 Matthew 26:6-7 [6] Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, [7] There came to him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
American King James Version×
).

If we read the parallel scriptures in Mark 14 and John 12 we see that the oil wasn't just poured on His head, but also on His feet. It was a very rare and expensive perfume—some sources say it may have come from India. We don't normally think of honoring someone this way, but the NIV Bible Commentary pointed out that in those days, "A distinguished rabbi might have been so honored."

Continuing the story, Matthew wrote, "But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, 'Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor'" (Matthew 26:8-9 Matthew 26:8-9 [8] But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? [9] For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
American King James Version×
).

All the disciples were saying this, but John 12:4 John 12:4Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him,
American King James Version×
makes clear that the leading voice was Judas Iscariot, who carried the money box and who would steal from it. But still, the rest of the disciples joined in rebuking Mary for this waste. After all, Mark 14:5 Mark 14:5For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
American King James Version×
says it was worth more than 300 denarii—a year's wages for a laborer!

Rebuking Mary

What would I have thought if I had been there? I can't imagine owning a bottle of perfume worth about a year's wages! I'm the kind of person who uses a little stub of a pencil rather than throwing it out. One thing that bothers me about restaurants is how much food gets thrown out. Waste not, want not, that's my motto.

I probably would have been picking on Mary like the rest of them. And hadn't Jesus just told His disciples about the importance of serving the poor in Matthew 25—the parable of the sheep and the goats? "I was hungry and you gave Me food," Christ had said. Couldn't a year's wages be used better than just being poured out and wasted?

But surprisingly, Christ didn't agree.

"But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, 'Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me'" (Matthew 26:10-11 Matthew 26:10-11 [10] When Jesus understood it, he said to them, Why trouble you the woman? for she has worked a good work on me. [11] For you have the poor always with you; but me you have not always.
American King James Version×
).

Once again the disciples had been so sure they were right, and Jesus surprised them, rebuking them for troubling the poor girl. For Judas Iscariot, this was the last straw, and he soon set out to betray his Master and Friend for just 30 pieces of silver. Many experts believe that these silver coins were tetradrachmas, worth four denarii. If this is true, Judas received 120 denarii, or less than half of what the perfume cost! Mary's freely given devotion to Jesus was worth far more than what it took to buy Judas' betrayal.

Christ said, "For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her'" (Matthew 26:12-13 Matthew 26:12-13 [12] For in that she has poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. [13] Truly I say to you, Wherever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman has done, be told for a memorial of her.
American King James Version×
).

Why did Mary do this, and why did Christ say it would be used as an example throughout the world?

The lesson here certainly was not that the poor weren't important, or that waste is OK. But the story does have a powerful way of making us reexamine what is truly important.

In Mary's Mind

Let's consider it from Mary's perspective. This was not long after her beloved brother Lazarus had been raised from the dead. What's an incredible miracle like that worth?

She believed that Jesus was the Christ, our Creator and Ruler! What's it worth to be treated as a friend by the Son of God?

And here at dinner, just days before His sacrifice, it seems Mary was beginning to understand that Christ was willing to die for us and to give us eternal life. Again, what's that worth?

Halley's Bible Handbook puts it this way on page 544: "Jesus probably had spoken of his coming Crucifixion. Mary, kindhearted, compassionate, thoughtful, lovely Mary, perhaps noticing a look of pain in his eyes, said to herself, 'This is no parable. He means it.' And she went and got the rarest treasure of her household, and poured it on his head and feet, and wiped them with her hair. Perhaps not a word was said. But he understood. He knew that she was trying to tell him how her heart ached."

Our Very Best

Mary's example reminds us that God deserves our very best. It shows us that there are times when even a balanced, sound-minded Christian will see the need to do something extraordinary, something extravagant, something above and beyond the call of duty, that may seem crazy or wasteful to others. Of course many today do such things for trivial pursuits. Some give their all for fashion or football or some other pursuit. But we are called to give our all to God.

God's people have always been called to give their all—their very best—to God. Noah devoted his life to building a huge boat far from the sea. The widow gave her last two mites to God. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to give a one-time, memorable sacrifice, than the small, minute-by-minute sacrifices that make up the living sacrifice God calls us to be (Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×
).

Putting God first—giving our best to God—really isn't about being unbalanced, but about being truly balanced. I can't truly put God first and neglect my family or my health. Taking care of all of the priorities is part of the sacrifice.

Of course we should remember balance, remember wisdom and remember the poor. But we can also remember Mary, and her example that Christ said would be preached throughout the world.

Remember Mary who set us the example of giving the best she had for her Master and Savior—and ours. UN