an alabaster jar

Text – Matthew 26:6-13:

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,[a]7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 

But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” 

10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this good news[b] is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Lenten Meditation:

In Bethany, about 2 miles from Jerusalem, Jesus told his disciples that there were only 2 days before Passover and his betrayal by Judas. While he was with his disciples, at the same time, religious leaders were already plotting to arrest Jesus and plan his death. It was a fraught time.

Jesus was at the home of Simon, a man who previously had leprosy. We might presume that Jesus healed this man, else he would not be able to entertain guests. At this meal a woman enters the house of Simon with a jar of expensive perfume which pours over Jesus’ head, causing an indignant response from the disciples.

Jesus praised her for the sacrifice on her part and said she was “preparing my body for burial.” She could not have known this, so Jesus is talking about the metaphor indicated by this act. It is good to think about this in Lent. Perhaps we too by our own sacrifices anoint Jesus’ head and so acknowledge the burial that he faces.

And what the woman also could not have known – his triumphant resurrection. Lent leads us to that.


Dear Jesus, we can only imagine how that must have pleased you when the unnamed woman followed you into Simon’s house to anoint you for burial. Today, 2000 years later, we pray that our lives will be an anointing. Clearly of a different sort, but nonetheless sacrificial, loving, and in step with your life, death, and resurrection. We pray to you. Amen.