6. Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
7. There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
8. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
9. For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
10. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
11. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.
12. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
13. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
Memorial (definition) – something, especially a structure, established to remind people of a person or event, intended to commemorate (or honor) someone or something. Source: New Oxford American Dictionary
God burned an appreciation for memorials into the spiritual genetic code of His people, the nation of Israel. We see interspersed throughout the Old Testament instances where the LORD instructed His people to observe memorials for one reason – a call to remember specific events where God wanted to be acknowledged and appreciated. In other instances the Hebrew people out of sheer inner conviction built memorials to demarcate places that wielded special significance in their lives.
Some Background On Memorials in the O.T.
One of the earliest appearances of a memorial in the O.T. is when Jacob builds a memorial to commemorate his first personal encounter with Almighty God:
And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. Genesis 28:18-19
The LORD himself commanded that His name be remembered and kept at the forefront of the people’s hearts and minds as recorded in Exodus 3:14-15:
14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
Another important memorial commanded by the Lord was the day He delivered His people from Egyptian bondage:
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. Exodus 12:1-2, 14
Why did the Lord choose this vehicle as a call to remembrance? Because it is within our human nature to forget. The ebbing and monotonous flowing of life events through time have a tendency to erase or blur the sharp definitions of thoughts and feelings that at one time were at the forefront of our minds. Particularly, things of a supernatural or extraordinary nature.
A New Memorial Paradigm
What Jesus spoke as recorded in Matthew chapter 26 concerning the memorializing of a woman’s sacrifice was earth shattering and shocking. Why?
First, this woman’s act of worship and love was not to the casual observer outwardly demonstrative nor particularly miraculous – no parting of the Red Sea or Jordan River, no supernatural intervention by God to annihilate invading armies or the like transpired. What was spectacular about this unnamed woman’s sacrifice was her role in fulfilling O.T. prophecy that Jesus was to be anointed with precious ointment prior to his death. And that was not the end of the matter.
Secondly, Jesus told the disciples that a verbal memorial commemorate the action of a woman (of all people!). This thinking was unprecedented in Palestine 2,000 years ago. Women in this region of the world held no social status. Women also had no say in neither the political or religious power circles of their day.
To elevate a woman to such an exalted plane was the “last straw” for Judas Iscariot. Her act of worship and adoration for Jesus was the catalyst, the lighting of the fuse that sent Jesus to the cross and the ushering in of the gospel:
13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. Matthew 26:13-15
Lastly, the selfless giving away of her alabaster box of spikenard meant she forfeited her future possibilities of becoming a bride as the perfume was reserved by a bride for her prospective groom on their wedding day. The woman chose to instead become part of the heavenly bride of Christ – the future culmination of the Gospel.
This woman’s act of sacrifice (as perceived by Jesus – the Lamb of God in her midst) established the future pattern of giving and worship for the church – not through the blood of animals, but through the sacrifice of a living human heart infused with love and humility. This is the way of the Gospel. These are the reasons why Jesus honored her sacrifice and asked that her actions never be forgotten.
Any Memorials In My Life?
There was a man named Cornelius recorded in The Book of Acts whose prayers and alms impressed Heaven:
And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. Acts 10:4
I wonder if we not only remember and honor the fallen warriors whose lives have brought us freedom, that we build our own memorials to remember those that have gone before us whose prayers, unselfish love, unending sacrifice and unquestionable faithfulness and integrity of character has granted us the spiritual liberty and protection we also embrace today.
Memorial Day 2018