By Brad Jernberg, Minister of Administration for Operations
Mark 14:1-9; Isaiah 42:1-9
Mark's account of Jesus' anointing at Bethany pits the self-righteous piety of the chief priests and teachers against the selfless, sacrificial gift of the woman at Simon's home. The story begins with the chief priests and teachers planning the assassination of the Messiah. This is a crime with a complicated scheme that will have great consequences, but they are worried about what the people will think. In other words, ?We want to arrest and kill Jesus! But we don't want to cause a fuss about it.? They were more concerned with the optics than the outcome. And when optics trump outcome, you've missed the point.
They were ?priests? in title, but not in practice. The woman at Simon's home was the real priest, even though her priestly actions came at a high cost. She sacrificed an expensive jar of perfume to the Lord. And in doing so was preparing Jesus for his burial before she even knew it was coming.
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 wages and the money given to the poor.? And they rebuked her harshly.
Why rebuke her? It wasn't their perfume; it was hers. Again, the point has been missed. The difference between the woman and the priests is that she was willing to risk something for God. And in that risk, she became a witness for the grace and mercy that God pours on all of us. She bore such a witness, in fact, that Jesus' declares that her story will be told throughout the world. She was willing enough, and humble enough, to suffer a loss for the greater good.
In his daily devotional Listening to Your Life Frederick Buechner writes:
If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully?the life you save may be your own?and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world's sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.
Following Jesus is risky business, and it can lead us into the wilderness whether we?re ready or not. These words from Isaiah assure us that God is with us in the wilderness moments of our lives:
I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.
When God reaches out to take hold of our hands, we have to reach back. We have to be ready. We have to wait and watch. And when the time comes, we have to act. God does not promise we will never experience suffering in the wilderness, but He does promise when we are in those moments, He will take hold of our hand. Our journeys through wilderness are confusing, disorienting, but we must tune our hearts and focus our minds to seek the hand of God. It's there?stretched out to us. Are we brave enough to take hold?