"Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, 'Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.' But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, 'Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me.'" (Matthew 26:6-10 NASB)
Usually when you hear this passage preached or taught you hear the speaker dwell on the sacrifice and worship the woman engaged in. I want to look at it from a different angle.
This was a woman in an extremely patriarchal society. At that time, women were relegated to hold certain roles, and they were looked upon as trouble makers, at best, if they deviated outside of those roles, regardless of how noble the cause may have been. Often, they were valued no more than second class citizens.
According to some of the other accounts there were other VIP's in attendance, the religious leaders of the day. One VIP thought to himself, "If Jesus knew she was a sinner He wouldn't allow her to do this". The fact that she was a woman, in a room filled with men - and she wasn't serving them - was bad enough, but a "known" sinner too?
She was on the fringes of society.
Let's take a look at the host for the night, Simon "the leper". From his name we already know one thing for sure. At some point in his life, he had been a leper. Even though he is introduced in the passage as a leper, he couldn't have been a leper any longer. Simon had probably been a leper for a very long time because people still identified him with that title, but at some point he had to have been healed of his leprosy. Since Jesus was at his house as a guest, we can probably assume how Simon received his healing (I wonder if he was the "one" of the ten lepers who came back to Jesus and thanked Him? Luke 17:11-19).
If Simon had still been a leper, he wouldn't have been allowed to live "in the city" with everyone else. He certainly wouldn't have been allowed to interact with the religious leaders of the day. According to the Jewish law and custom, lepers couldn't live where others lived, they couldn't enter the city gates and had to yell, "Unclean!" whenever someone got too close. They were religiously and ceremonially unfit to worship and banished to only interact with others of their kind.
Lepers were on the fringes of society.
Have you ever felt as if you were on the fringes of society? Have you ever actually been on the fringes of society? For today, the definition for society is not going to refer just to the general population in which we live, because we all function in microcosms of society.
Societies of: work, school, home, church, clubs, friends, family, etc., etc., etc..
In these "societies" we have different personas and different levels of acceptance. Am I right? You may be a ministry leader at church, but when you are at work people ridicule you because you are a Believer. You may not participate in the extracurricular activities at school, your too shy, or you get bullied for one reason or another. But in your circle of friends you are considered to be the reliable one everyone goes to. Perhaps you're the "black sheep" in the family, but are mom extraordinaire in your parent group.
You can be hailed in one instance and on the fringes in another.
My freshman year in high school, at times I felt as if I was on the fringes. I was well known in middle school. When I transitioned to high school I was still well known, but for the "wrong" reason. My eyes "bug" out of their sockets due to my thyroid disease and a group of senior boys teased me quite often about it. I still had friends, male and female. I made friends and I was social, it was just that group of boys that didn't appreciate my uniqueness! When I encountered them, I felt as if I was on the fringes of my scholastic and social society.
The woman, Simon "the leper" and I - we all experienced being on the fringes of society, yet all of us were accepted by Jesus.
The beautiful picture that is painted in this passage of scripture is that everyone in that house, regardless of their status and state in life, had been accepted by Jesus.
Religious leader? Accepted.
Even if we feel as if we are on the fringes in our microcosms of society, we can rest and be assured that we are accepted by Jesus - and quite frankly - nothing else matters! Even in adulthood being on the fringes can be difficult, but knowing that the One who created heaven, earth and you accepts you should be mind boggling. With all of our issues, faults, and sometimes our downright unpleasantness and disobedience, Jesus accepts us. He wants us to know we are welcome in His presence, no matter where we are in life. As a sinner, a former outcast of society, a self-serving, self-righteous "saint", Jesus wants to sit down and break bread with each of us.
Knowing this, no matter how others may perceive you, hold your head up high and walk boldly in your acceptance. Jesus would want no less for you. We serve an all inclusive Savior. Then be sure to thank Him for His unwarranted acceptance. Sacrificially worship Him unashamed and unabashedly just as the woman with the vial of alabaster perfume.
Just Around the Corner,
P.s. I must report that when I was about 20 years old, one of those senior boys that teased me invited me to lunch and apologized for his part. Yes, I forgave him, but thankfully at that time I had already realized I was accepted by Jesus so I knew my worth did not hinge on the opinions of others. Hallelujah...