But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
To what purpose is this waste? It is interesting to notice that St. Matthew speaks generally, and says, "his disciples;" St. Mark speaks carefully, and says, "some had indignation;" St. John speaks precisely, and singles out the spokesman - it was the man with the narrow, covetous soul, it was Judas Iscariot. His indignation, partly real and partly affected, was perhaps honestly shared by some of the disciples, especially by those of the third or practical group. To see the point and interest of the woman's act - and we understand the woman to have been Mary, the sister of Lazarus - we must keep in mind the Eastern love of perfumes, and the feast customs that relate to perfumes. Easterns set value on scents that seem to us too strong. Women keep special scents as treasures. A present of perfumes is a mark of reverence and honour. The present sent by Cambyses to the Prince of Ethiopia consisted of "a purple vest, a gold chain for the neck, bracelets, an alabaster box of perfume, and a cask of palm wine." To sprinkle the apartments, and the person of a guest, with rosewater and other aromatics is still a mark of respectful attention. Point out that Mary's perfume would really have been wasted, if it had been kept after so good a use for it came into view. For there is a waste in keeping idle and useless, as well as a waste in spending, and losing by spending. Whether it is or it is not waste to give depends on -
I. THE OBJECT THE GIVER HAS IN VIEW. Mary had a most distinct object before her. It was one that glorified her act. She wanted to find suitable expression for her thankfulness to him who had brought back her brother from the dead; and for her personal love to him who had been to her the dearest and noblest of friends. Words would not suffice her; she wanted something that had self-surrender in it. Her treasured perfume was not wasted when it did so much.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH THE RECEIVER TAKES THE GIRT. Jesus did not think it waste. To him it seemed richer with meanings and affections than even Mary thought it was. She had, unconsciously, fitted to his mood of feeling. It could be no waste that comforted Jesus in that sad hour.
III. THE POINT OF VIEW FROM WHICH THE OBJECTOR CRITICIZED THE GIFT. He thought the only poor folk were those persons who had no money. Christ was "poor" in a far higher sense. The gift was given to the poor. Impress:
1. Mary gave up what she prized.
2. Mary gave up without reserve.
3. Mary gave up in order to find expression for thankful love. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?