March 29, 2018/Maundy Thursday-Mark 14:1-34
The alabaster jar sat on a high shelf in my house for months. I had saved money for years in order to buy it, setting aside a little each week, every little bit that I saved on food or cloth or other items for our household. So when I finally was able to buy the little jar, filled with aromatic oil of nard, I made sure to put it somewhere that one of the children wouldn’t bump into it and send it crashing to the ground.
If my husband had known where I was taking it that day, he likely would have stopped me. Who knew when death might visit our family, when we might have a loved one whose body we would need to prepare for burial with the fragrant perfume? But he was away that evening and the children were busy with their own affairs. No one saw me climb up on a stool and carefully lift the jar down from its perch. No one saw me slip out of the house and make my way to Simon’s.
Once I got there, I didn’t stop for anything, didn’t wait for an invitation to join the others at dinner. I just made my way to where he sat, and without a second thought, snapped the neck of the jar and poured the oil over his head. Some of the disciples who were with him that evening were furious. “Why is she wasting this ointment?” they screamed. “We could have sold it for more than a year’s wages! Just think how many poor we could have fed!” They scolded me as if I were a disobedient child.
But he silenced them with a word and a look. He understood that in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to give all that I had for him. I knew, somehow, that things were going to end badly for him. It seemed right, to anoint him – to prepare his body for the burial that would soon come. “She will be remembered,” he said. “What she has done will be remembered.”
Really! The man has quite lost his mind! Defending that stupid woman who wasted all that expensive oil by pouring it over his head! I am responsible for our funds, so I know just how far the money would go, if we had sold that oil rather than wasting it in such a fashion.
Oh, I’m sure she will be remembered – remembered as a silly woman who threw away the chance to help so many others, just so she could gain a page in the history books.
Well, I’ve had it. I’ve had it with his enigmatic predictions and his mysterious stories and his magic-show miracles. The chief priests have the right idea. It is time – it is past time – to put a stop to this charade. When the time is right, I will turn him over to them. And that will be the end of the story – for that woman and for him.
I have followed him from one end of the Galilee to the other, and now he tells me I will deny him?
I don’t care what the rest of the group does – I will never turn my back on him. I have seen the miracles; I have listened to the stories; I have walked away from my home and my livelihood and my family. There is no way that I will ever turn my back on him!
A woman, a traitor, a disciple. All, followers of Jesus. All, well aware of his claims, believing him to be the Messiah. But not all understanding exactly what that would mean.
The woman probably came the closest to recognizing how this journey would end for Jesus. She gave all that she had to show her love and adoration, and to prepare him for his death. But the other two – both among the twelve – didn’t really get it. One would betray Jesus in the most heinous way imaginable. Having dipped his bread into the oil with him, having asked in mock horror, “Surely, not I?” when told that one of them would betray him, Judas would leave the Passover feast prepared to deliver him over to the authorities. The other, one of the first disciples called by Jesus, the one who always spoke first and thought later, would later cower in fear. Practically spitting in fury when Jesus told him that he would deny him three times that very night, Peter would boldly lie to those who charged him with being one of his disciples. And hearing the cock crow, he would weep.
All three, like us, welcomed to the table. All, like us, offered the bread of life and the cup of the covenant. All, called children of God.