Monday, July 23rd. Mark 14:1-9

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

 

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” Mark 14:1-9

 

This week we move into the 14th chapter, a relentless study in contrasts.  Today’s contrast is between the religious leaders and an anonymous woman.  Mark’s writing here is tantalizing.  He says much but leaves so much more to our imaginations, where the Spirit speaks to us.

 

The scene happens within the home of Simon the leper.  What a strange name.  What do we make of it?  Clearly his leprosy must be in his past or he would not be allowed to live freely within the village, let alone welcome friends to his home.  Lepers would have been sent outside of the village, but he is now host to the last dinner party Jesus would know short of the Passover meal.  Is he someone whom Jesus has cured?  We don’t know.

 

What we do know is that, while Simon welcomes Jesus, the religious leaders are conspiring to find a time and place to arrest and kill him.  But they are afraid. Not of killing a man because they honestly think it is the godly thing to do.  Not of killing an innocent man because they don’t think he is innocent.  They are afraid of causing a riot.  They are afraid of how people might react.

 

Enter the anonymous woman.  We have no idea who she is.  Who she is doesn’t matter.  She obviously doesn’t care what people think for she too has plans for Jesus.

 

She pours a jar of fragrant, costly ointment on Jesus’ head.  He is, after all, the anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ.  Her gift prepares Jesus’ body for death.  Mark doesn’t tell us why she did this.  Perhaps she too, like Simon, had been touched deeply by Jesus’ love.

 

At least some of those gathered think what she has done is wasteful.  I understand that.  “Where two or three gather together in Jesus’ name”…. at least one of them will complain about something.  But it is strange, isn’t it, that the words we most remember about this text are “For you always have the poor with you”.

 

Yet Jesus tells us that what this woman has done, this extravagant demonstration of love and devotion, will be remembered forever.  So we have remembered it today.  And we remember the complaints of his friends, and the conspiracy of his enemies, as well.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, we turn now with you on the last steps to the cross.  We pray that you might stir up within us the kind of gratitude that this nameless woman showed you.  May we see your face as we love the unlovely and remember the forgotten.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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