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The Waste of the Ointment

The Waste of the Ointment

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Published by glennpease
BY DANIEL MERRIMAN


St. Mark xiv : 4. JVhy was this waste of the
ointment made?
BY DANIEL MERRIMAN


St. Mark xiv : 4. JVhy was this waste of the
ointment made?

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 15, 2013
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THE WASTE OF THE OITMETBY DAIEL MERRIMASt. Mark xiv : 4. JVhy was this waste of theointment made?A CCORDIG to St. John, it was Judas whoJl\. put this question, and he put it because hewas a thief. According to the other Evangelists,it was the disciples, or some of the disciples, whoasked the question. But there is no inconsistency inthese two accounts. Doubtless the thievish, treach-erous Judas started the inquiry, and then the otherdisciples were captious enough to take it up. Youknow it is common in our day to hear just sucha shallow and cruel criticism of some noble deed,of some devoted life, set going and made popu-lar among a thoughtless multitude by one narrow-minded and base man. So it was in this case.And what was the occasion of it all? Jesus, afew days before his crucifixion, is reclining at ahospitable table in his favorite Bethany. A woman(St. John says it was Mary), flaming with theprophetic insight and ardor of love, approachesHim, bearing in her hands an alabaster cruse of precious perfume, and breaking its long, slender120 THE WASTE OF THE OITMETneck, she pours out upon His head in unthink-ing profusion the costly ointment. St. John saysit was upon His feet, which later she wiped withher hair. o doubt both statements are true. Forafter the head, there was more than enough forthe feet, inasmuch as we read that '^the house
 
was filled with the odor of the ointment, " — a sin-gle lifelike touch of the narrative, impossible forany one but an eye-witness to make, and whichoverthrows much of the criticism directed againstthe authenticity of the Fourth Gospel.But what of the large expense which wasinvolved in this extravagant act of the w^oman?Judas said that the ointment might have been soldfor three hundred pence — or three hundred de-narii — and given to the poor ; and as a denariusequalled about seventeen cents, the whole amountcorresponds to more than fifty dollars of our cur-rency ; and if we consider the greater purchasingpower which money then had, — for a denarius, orseventeen cents, was the pay for a day's labor, — the amount represented a sum three or four timesas great as now, say one hundred seventy-five ortwo hundred dollars, a large amount surely to beTHE WASTE OF THE OITMET 121spent in a single anointing of one person's headand feet, — an anointing which left absolutelynothing substantial to show for itself; an amountlarge enough to do a world of good among thepoor.Surely the question which forms my text was avery proper and plausible one. The objection madeby the shrewd, clear-headed, thrifty, and withalbenevolent Judas to the act of this woman cer-tainly sounds reasonable. And since it is, in prin-ciple, substantially the same objection which isoften heard in our day, we are glad that he wasat hand, just then and there, to make it, in theface and eyes of this woman and her Lord, thatwe might have forever for our guidance His reply
 
 — His way of treating such an objection: ''Towhat purpose was this waste ? ' 'In its various aspects, material and spiritual,waste is well-nigh the most awful fact of humanlife; the badge and exponent, yes, one mightalmost say the very substance, of sin. Let us hear,then, what Jesus has to say in defence of thisapparent throwing away of two hundred dollars — more or less.122 THE WASTE OF THE OITMETIn the first place, He does not say anythingabout Judas's bad heart and bad motive in askingthe question. He knew it well enough. St. Johnknew it, and says that Judas made the objecdon,''not because he cared for the poor ; but becausehe was a thief, and having the bag, took awaywhat was put therein;" that is, was accustomedto handle the common cash ; accustomed greed-ily to finger it ; perhaps now and then to appro-priate some to his own use ; certainly having athievish lust for money; therefore blind to itshigher uses, and therefore, in making this objec-tion, a downright hypocrite and traitor. SurelyJesus saw all this as plainly as the day, and Hemight have unmasked the thief and crushed himand his objection ^ith a word ; but He did notdo this, doubdess because He wished to deal withthe objection wholly apart from the personal char-acter and motive of the man who made it, — a wonderful example of self-restraint which wewould do well to follow, and for which we areprofoundly grateful.In the second place, when our Lord does speak,observe that it is first of all in defence of the

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