Be About Serving, Not Judging
“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 14:3-9)
This story takes place prior to The Last Supper, Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas betraying Jesus, and Jesus being arrested. Jesus sees the woman who anoints him in a larger context: her act of love is one of anointing his body for burial. (verse 8)
In another sense, it seems like this story represents something that has happened over and over again, as long as human beings have existed. After someone has “done what she [or he] could” (verse 8), the bystanders immediately start critiquing what has been done.
When the act in question is done in the spirit of love, the giver is very often sticking her (his) neck out. Love usually involves being quite vulnerable. Certainly this woman was being amazingly vulnerable. Who was she to come up to Jesus - in front of all of these other people (mostly men, I’m sure) - break open the jar of nard, and begin anointing Jesus’ head with it?
Of course the questions and the critiques came! I imagine more was said than Mark captured in his telling of the story.
“Who is this woman?”
“Where did she get the money to buy this nard?”
“Who does she think she is, just barging in here like this, interrupting Jesus as he talks to us?”
And the critique Mark does share with us is this: “Why was this ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii [300 days’ wages for a laborer], and the money given to the poor.” (verse 4)
First of all, no act of selfless love is ever wasted.
Second, notice that Jesus came to the woman’s defense immediately, culminating in him saying, “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.” (Thank you, Mark, for making sure that this happened!)
Third, this story challenges us to notice where we put our energy.
It takes very little energy to sit on the sideline and criticize. It is so easy to do! And, with so many people modeling this behavior for us, we can “join in the game” without even thinking about what we are doing.
On the other hand, think about the time and money - and energy - that the woman invested. Nard was imported from India. How long did she have to save her money to buy this? What help did she need from family members to help her acquire the nard? What kind of listening and discernment did she do before she heard God say, “I want you to anoint Jesus with this nard.” How much time had she spent following Jesus and figuring out, finally, that Bethany, in the home of Simon the leper, would be the place where she “performed a good service for [Jesus]”? (verse 6)
Let us keep listening for the Spirit’s promptings, as God guides us into doing particular acts of love. Let us pray that we do not fall into temptation, when it comes to rushing to judge others’ acts of love.
And… thank you!
Thank you for all the acts of selfless love that you do, in Jesus’ name.