Matthew 26:1-13 Beautiful Waste

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Beautiful Waste

Jesus, you seem to have been less pragmatic than we are.  There is a beauty in extravagance, it shows how we value the one we lavish our resources upon.  The temple in the Old Testament reflects this.  The churches of the Middle Ages reflect this.  However, our protestant churches are mostly pragmatic architectural embarrassments.  We worship you in spirit and in truth and we reject the love of icons that catholics have.  So we worship you in shades of beige, darkened boxes, and hospital green.  We create Starbucks in the lobby with the hope that people will ignore the drab exterior.  We wouldn’t dare lavish funds on the creation of a house of worship when so many people are starving in Africa.  People were starving in the world when the temple was built.  People were poor when a woman poured expensive perfumes on you.  Cut flowers die and that is part of the reason they are valuable.  They are a sign of extravagant love.

Jesus, we are still extravagant.  We are extravagant toward ourselves.  We let your church live in poverty, unable to fund great architecture, acts to stem social evils, and unable to invest in education, whilst we get fat on too much food, whilst we buy clothes that are more expensive than we need, whilst we buy tickets to events we need not attend.  Our financial acts of lavishing riches show the kind of love the woman in the story above showed you, but we lavish resources on ourselves.  We excuse ourselves from wasting our resources on you.

Questions

  1. Where is Jesus?
  2. Why were the disciples upset?
  3. Why do you think expensive things are ‘wasted’ on God (e.g. the excess of resources that went into building the temple)?
  4. How has a selfish view of pragmatism made the church ugly?
  5. Upon whom or what do you lavish resources?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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