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Seeds of the Kingdom

Perfume

by John Sainsbury

15 December 2022

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She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.
Mark 14:8, NIV

As the countdown to Christmas continues, I’m sure we’re going to be seeing an awful lot of advertisements appearing on our TV screens for all sorts of suggested Christmas gifts, including a great many for an expensive array of perfumes and aftershaves. It’s certainly no bad thing to want to smell nice, and even Jesus seemed happy to receive this gift, although He understood what it truly signified (Mark 14:1-9).

The story of an unnamed woman pouring an expensive perfume, made of pure nard, over Jesus’ head, as He reclined at the table of Simon the Leper, is told in Mark 14. And just like some of the expensive perfumes today, its cost caused many who were present to be indignant at such extravagance. Indeed, there were many who chastised the woman harshly for not using the value of such a gift to help the poor.

Interestingly, Jesus spoke up for her and told them to ‘leave her alone’ because what she had done was ‘a beautiful thing’ done for Jesus. If any of those who criticised her really wanted to help the poor, Jesus suggested, they could do so if they really wanted to. But what she did was a one-off gift that would serve to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.

And Jesus’ death was a once only opportunity for this woman to show her love and worship in a unique and beautiful way that would be remembered for ever. What struck me about this story, as our team studied it the other day, was Jesus’ simple sentence: ‘She did what she could’.

The gift of this incredibly expensive perfume, poured liberally over Jesus’ head, was her way of serving Him in a unique and beautiful way. It was something that she could do, and she did it! And whilst others scorned her for her lavish worship of Him, Jesus accepted her gift and commended her for it. She did what she could, and it was gratefully received.

It raises the question in my mind about whether it could be said of me, “He did what he could?” It would be so easy to join in with the crowd of indignant voices giving a self-righteous rebuke for the one who could have done so much to help the poor. But these people probably never think about doing anything for the poor themselves.

But, how much better to simply do that which we can, to serve Jesus, irrespective of what anyone else thinks or says! I love it that, as Jesus said, this story of the worshipful generosity of this woman is being told in memory of her, even to this day. She did what she could. Will I do what I can when the opportunity presents itself?

John Sainsbury and his wife Sue are part of the leadership team at Ellel Grange. John has served as a church leader for many years, most recently as Lead Pastor of the Garstang Free Methodist Church. He has a passion for seeing many brought into the fulness of life that following Christ brings.

 

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