Reflectionary

The Woman Who Anoints Jesus

(What follows is a monologue I wrote for use in worship, based on Mark 14.)

It was just two days before the festival of unleavened bread. We heard rumors that the chief priests and the scribes were trying to arrest Jesus. They wanted to kill him. Here in Bethany, people were on both sides; some wanted to meet him and talk to him, but others wished he would just move along. They didn’t want any trouble here. He was staying at the house of Simon the leper. My brother knew Simon before he was sick, and I had been to his home. I wanted to go, but I knew that my family would be angry if I went to Simon’s, let alone to go when this Jesus was there. But I felt I had to go. I snuck out of my parents’ house, and just before I left, I picked up the alabaster jar my grandmother had given me. It belonged to her grandmother and was filled with nard from the East, very precious not just because it is expensive, but because it was hers.

At Simon’s house, Jesus was sitting at the table. I had a feeling I cannot explain now, as if a hand under my elbow was guiding me to him, as if a voice so soft no one else could hear was telling me to anoint him. I broke the jar, for that is the only way to open it. The perfumed oil spread over my hands, and I placed them on his head and let it pour onto him.

Immediately his friends began to complain that I was wasting the nard. It could have been sold for hundreds of denarii, they said. The money could have been used to feed the poor! They scolded me, and for a moment I wished I could run away, that I had never come in the first place.

But then Jesus spoke, and his voice was beautifully kind. “Let her alone,” he said. “Why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you will 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.”

The men around him looked upset and several tried to stop him talking that way, but he did not listen to them. He said, “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.”

In remembrance of me? I truly didn’t care about that. But I did care that I had made him happy.

Later we heard that it was his friend, Judas, who betrayed him to the priests and Pharisees, for money.

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