While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. (Mark 14:3-10)
Have you ever looked at one of those pictures that just appeared to be a mess of scribbles? You were supposed to concentrate on it until you could see a hidden picture emerge. Jesus seemed to have a knack for looking at things that seemed ordinary and somehow finding the extraordinary in the midst of it. That’s certainly what He did in this story of His anointing at Bethany.
It’s a simple story. While He was reclining at supper in the home of Simon in Bethany, a woman came in and poured an expensive jar of perfume upon Him as an act of worship. Those present could only see the extravagance of what seemed like a colossal waste of money. Only Jesus was able to see the vertical significance of this act. Where others saw waste, Jesus experienced the prophetic anointing of His body in preparation for His burial. It meant so much to Jesus that He wanted His disciples to tell others about this sacrificial act as part of the gospel story.
Going vertical with Jesus means we will often find spiritual significance in things that others see differently. Sometimes we will discern or perceive the activity of God in the common or the ordinary. It is a continual challenge to keep our spiritual eyes open and our ears attuned to the voice of the Spirit. Sharing what God shows us when we may be ridiculed or disagreed with is difficult. However, there is a woman whose love for Jesus has been shared with millions in the pages of Holy Scripture because she was open to the potential disapproval of others in order to obey the Holy Spirit. She accomplished the vertical through her horizontal act of sacrifice.
Listen: Spend a few quiet moments seeking God. Be attentive to whatever He may speak to your heart.
Reflect: How is the Spirit leading you to respond to what you have heard from God?
Confess and Repent: If there is something the Spirit convicts you of, take time to prayerfully confess it. Resolve to turn from it if it is sin, or step toward whatever He is leading you into that you have either neglected or not seen before.
Ask: Lord Jesus, I love how You see amazing things in the midst of everyday life. Give me spiritual eyes to see what You see. Help me to hear. Give me the courage You had to speak about those extraordinary things to people who might not always understand. May I always be obedient to the Spirit so that I may be faithfully useful in the work of the kingdom, always participating actively in Your powerful story of redemption.
- Do you own something that costs as much as a year’s wages? If the Holy Spirit led you to use it for Jesus, could you “waste” it for His sake? Are you prepared to give up what is valuable to you so that Jesus can receive more glory . . . even if others would think it unwise or foolish? Would you be able to tell God today that He can have whatever you own to use for the sake of His kingdom? If not, what would stop you from doing so?
- Have you ever felt an urging by the Spirit to do something completely out of your comfort zone, but which you knew without a doubt He wanted you to do? Perhaps it was to speak to a neighbor about Jesus. Maybe it was to go the extra mile with a person you barely know. What was the outcome? Did you feel foolish? Were you obedient to accomplish the task? Why or why not? If it is still something you are able to do, can you trust God enough to do it?
- Do something for Jesus’ sake today. It can be something safe, but it can also be something that stretches you. Perhaps you could take dinner to a shut-in, or rake leaves for an elderly person—just because. Who knows? Your sacrificial kindness may become part of someone’s spiritual story.
Taken from Vertical with Jesus by David and Kim Butts. © 2022 PrayerShop Publishing.