Reading: Mark 14:1-11
Reflection – The anointing
Here we have, similar to yesterday, another one of those Markan sandwiches. The first two verses tell us
there the need for a traitor but we do not know who that will be yet. Mark then moves us to the anointing story and the anointer is left unnamed although we are told it happens in the house of Simon the leper.
What are the contrasts between the characters? One is a traitor and the other a believer. One represents the worst possible action and the other suggests the best. There are of course lots of strands we could try to unpick when looking at these contrasts. If the crowds were so against Jesus as the angry mobs who will cry out crucify why did the religious authorities think it was unsafe to arrest him during the day? Why did they have to wait for the cover of darkness? Why did they wait until he was in a more private place such as the garden with only a few of his disciples with him? Why did they have to get Judas on board when many would have been willing to accept the thirty pieces of silver? The term used on Sunday was ‘many people spread their cloaks and branches.’ As with most parades or demonstrations ‘the many people’ can be taken to read different things. How many people need to be there before it constitutes a crowd? It can all be relevant to circumstance. On Monday the religious leaders, ‘were afraid to act because the whole crowd was amazed’ Was that the same crowd or a smaller one that witnessed the temple incident? Now look at the anointing. Such lavish outpouring of emotion, an entire year’s wage, not some thirty pieces of silver.
Jesus rebuking the disciples and saying this act will be remembered whenever the gospel is preached throughout the world. Now if ever there was an endorsement then that surely was it. Not only for a few weeks but every time the gospel is preached. Not only in and around Bethany and Jerusalem but throughout the world. Here in this action by this unnamed woman could it be that we are witnessing Mark’s revelation of the first to truly believe that Jesus will be raised from the dead? Because she is anointing him with burial oils and perfumes. That is where I want to leave all the questions and theories, all the theological what ifs. Over the weeks journeying through this gospel we have spent time thinking about the visual and the verbal. This is yet another case. The woman by her actions has visually displayed she understands all that Jesus has been speaking to his disciples about his dying and rising again. And yet still some among them said, ‘why this waste?’ This afternoon I want us to engage our imaginations with another of our senses. The sense of smell. I remember talking to a family once when making arrangements for a funeral. One of the men present said, ‘oh you knew when she had been baking, what a lovely smell when you got near the house. I can still get that smell today.’ I wonder how many of us can still smell
that favourite sweety shop from our childhood? Or on holiday and the unmistakable combination of the chippie with chips covered in vinegar and that fresh sea air filling your lungs. If you close your eyes and take a big deep breath through your nose what beautiful memory does your imagination allow you to revisit? When all the bits and pieces have been stripped away and we are left to remember our own thoughts. Where do we travel to?
And who do we travel with?