Man spends much time raising monuments and other such things to commemorate his existence and cement his "legacy" for years to come. Natural man decidedly desires to have some portion of him live on even when his natural existence is over. Kings in days gone by wanted more than anything to have a male heir to carry on the family throne but also that a portion of them would be carrying on in that position of power. God's children should devote decidedly more time looking to serve God today rather than be concerned about being remembered tomorrow. Yet, on some occasions, men and women of faith will be remembered in days to come after their lives are past and gone: Hebrews 11 is a good example of such testimonies after people are dead. Yet, one thing that usually confounds man is this point: people are more apt to remember the legacy of those that did not strive for it. Those that spend a lot of time and energy so that others will remember them, what they did, and how they did it will often be less remembered than those who simply lived their lives and did the best that they could.
Our study verse presents some very interesting language. The setting for the verse is that Christ is dining in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. He is a mere days away from His great suffering and ultimate victory at Calvary. While eating, a woman enters with precious ointment to anoint the head of Jesus Christ. Since this ointment is presented as being great and costly, there is an immediate uproar among those that sat at meat. Their thought was that the ointment was wasted when the money spent on it could have been given to the poor. Now, let us consider that thought a moment. Noble intent is it not? Giving to the poor of this world is certainly a selfless act of charity. Yet, when put side-by-side with the Master, the poor fade from the picture rather fast.
Christ immediately rebukes those that would trouble this woman and makes the obvious point that is not obvious to many today. Christ plainly states that the poor will ALWAYS be in this world. He hearkens their attention to an Old Testament principle (Deuteronomy 15:11) that poor people will always exist. It would do well for us today to consider that no matter the effort put in poverty will never be extinct from this earth. Poverty will always plague this sin-cursed world, and while we should do good to those less fortunate, we cannot hope to eliminate it completely. The greater point that Christ makes is that since they are ever present, the ability to give to their need will be available in the future. What about this woman's ability to give of herself to the Saviour? In the way that she has shown her love and devotion to Him, that time was drawing close to an end, and therefore her work on Him met with His approval.
Christ further bolsters the point and importance of her work in that she anointed His body to the burying. By doing what she did, she showed forth what great things He would suffer for His own in that He would die (hence be buried). Finally, one last point before we get to our verse. While what she did was quite costly by worldly standards and met with the disapproval of the disciples and others, her work was quite small in comparison to being put to death for the sins of God's family and going to the grave. Yet, Christ commended her noble work by saying is was what "she could." She did not have the ability to do Christ's work, but she did what she could. We do well to heed to that principle today. We may not be able to do what Christ did or even rise to the level of doing what others may do (such as not being called to preach), but our purpose in serving Christ is to do what we are able to do.
Getting to our study verse, we see that Christ declares that this situation would be spoken of often whenever the gospel went forth. What this woman did would be a testimony to her efforts. Now, let us ask a simple question. In all the years you may have been in the church, listening to the gospel proclaimed, and hearing brethren discuss the Bible, just how often is this account brought up? Christ says that wheresoever the gospel is preached, this would be spoken of. What she did would be remembered for generations to come. Have men failed through the centuries to speak of this account often? While there is certainly no harm in preaching from this passage as there are many rich nuggets in it, Christ's point is somewhat bigger than that.
I remember as a young boy reading I Corinthians 2:2 thinking that every sermon had to talk about the crucifixion. When I realized that was not the case, I came to realize that every sermon should have Christ contained therein with the understanding that without Him, nothing else matters or is worthwhile. This passage contains something very similar to that. While we may not necessarily preach from this passage all that often, the heart of the passage is preached on a regular basis. This woman, Christ declared, wrought a good work upon Him. Her anointing of His body showed her love and devotion to Him and a willingness to part with natural things to show it.
Today, we do not have the physical body of Christ to go to, but by His Spirit, we assemble together, meet with Him in spirit and in truth, and as an assembly, represent or typify the body of Christ. Each of us are members in particular of a local assembly or body, and each congregation comes together to crown her Head and King Jesus. When this woman broke that box of ointment all over His head, we see an action that shows an understanding of His kingship. Old Testament kings were anointed with oil on their head as a sign to the right to the throne. Christ did not need this action from her to make Him King, but it shows an act of faith that she worshipped Him as King.
As our voices raise in song, prayers ascend on high, and preaching sounds forth in our courts, we attempt in our efforts to crown Him Lord of all. In so crowning Him in our efforts, the body of Christ is benefited and anointed as well. This ointment that she used was identified as being worth three hundred pence. That fiscal amount equated to much more than the amount the apostles mentioned to feed the 5,000 with a crumb or two apiece. (John 6:7) Depending on one's occupation, three hundred pence could equate to a whole year's wages. Therefore, knowing the magnitude of the monetary things that she sacrificed, how much ointment was there? That much ointment probably had the same effect that Aaron's did, in that it ran down from his head to the bottom of his skirts. (Psalm 133) As the body of Christ had ointment running down everywhere, so the blessings today in His service run down from the Head to every member that is there united.
As this woman, our efforts may seem small in comparison to His. To many today, giving up a year's worth of wages would be mighty indeed, but it is still small in comparison to the Master. Our hearts may say, "I cannot do the things that others do such as preach." Yet, God has given each member of the body honour and uses that benefit the entire body. As the ointment ran down, the whole body was benefited, and as we serve Christ and one another today, the whole body is benefited.
Now to the last two points, which are the testimony and the primary focus. Christ said that what this woman did would be a memorial of her, and she did it aforehand specifically for His burying. Today, people who see the saints of God gathered in His courts selflessly serving their Master with love, devotion, and care one to another it is a testimony that the same care this woman had for the Master's physical body, we have today for the body of the Lord's bride. She did it looking forward to the burying of that body in death, and we do it today commemorating that death, burial, and resurrection that was the only thing to bring us unto God. Truly, as the ages of time have rolled on, the truth of this majestic work has been faithfully honoured and proclaimed, and the people that gloriously worship and crown that effort have been some of the most loving and selfless people the world has ever known. Their efforts seem strange to others, wasted by more, and foolish to most. Yet, no matter what anyone standing by thinks, the peace which passeth understanding in our heart and soul, "Well done, you did what you could" from His still, small voice makes the effort worthwhile.