Reading: Mark 14:1-11 Jesus Anointed at Bethany
Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.” While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wagesand the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.The poor you will always have with you,and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
As we journey through the week we turn our attention to the cost. The cost that Jesus paid, and the value that God places on each one of us, a cost that would ultimately result in the death of Jesus. We witness the response of love poured out for him and over him. The impact he has had on one woman’s life that would drive her to openly display, in such a sacrificial action, an outpouring of emotion. The cost of the perfume is great, a year’s wages gone on this one gift, this one moment in time.
The disciples see that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.
Surely, it was a waste. Surely, it is better to help someone than to have a luxury wasted.
Jesus calls what she does a beautiful thing. And all too often we are made to feel guilty of wanting something beautiful. It is always compared to having something less.
The cry goes up continually “Why this waste – the money could be spent on hospitals,
it could be spent on the schools, it could be spent on the poor.” And who would argue against such things but likewise who would argue that when love overpowers us then extravagance can be the outcome. It is not to deny anything but for that moment love is all consuming. I think Jesus recognises and affirms the woman’s spontaneous and extravagant devotion to him. At this moment some cold hearted approach to worship is just not possible.
It has to be all or nothing for this woman, a beautiful or noble act does not count the cost. It desires of us to be generous, yes it sometimes even desires us to be a bit over the top.
This woman desired to show her extravagant devotion to Jesus, she desired to give him not only her best but her everything. Jesus affirms that we will always have the poor with us.
Jesus, I think, is throwing out a reminder to us all. Eradicating poverty does not have an easy solution. Our devotion to Jesus will drive us to work for and with the poor, it will always lead us to seeing the humanity of the poor, we cannot pass by on the other side, we can never see people as objects, our devotion to Jesus will help us see everyone as loved by God and worthy of respect and care. We can become so devoted to a cause that the cause begins to overlook the people involved, making them nothing more than statistics or numbers to be played around with.
The First Minister every day is reminding us that the deaths she reports are not simply statistics they are the lives of human beings who leave behind grieving friends, family and neighbours. In a week that encompasses all the joys and all the pains of life’s journey we take a moment as we wonder at such love poured out, both given and received. We begin to understand that the cost was indeed high but the reward is greater still.