Mark 14:3–9 (NRSV): 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.”
We open Holy Week with a story of anointing. A woman comes to the house of Simon, a leper, to anoint Jesus, to prepare him for burial, as Mark tells us. But there is so much more going on than a simple anointing. There is risk, there is challenge, there is frustration, and there is remembrance.
Something that gets lost in the story is that Jesus tells the disciples that what this woman has done should be told in remembrance of her wherever the good news is shared. This now unnamed woman is to be remembered for her act. Why is it that Jesus wants her to be remembered? Amy-Jill Levine suggests in her book Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week, that this woman took risks to do what the others, what the men wouldn’t and couldn’t. She takes the very scary risk of entering the home of Simon, a leper, who is unclean. She is a uninvited guest, and so she also takes a risk be entering a stranger’s home. She is not a woman without means, given the ointment she possesses, and so she risks her status and her place by simply walking through Simon’s door. But she also takes a risk by anointing Jesus as a king. In a world where Caesar is the ultimate power, this woman risks acknowledging that Jesus is her king. This woman should be remembered, as Jesus tells us, because she is willing to risk everything for her faith in Jesus.
As we journey into this Holy Week, let us remember this woman, the risks she took, and consider what risks we are willing to take for the sake of the good news. As Jesus called on us to remember this woman’s act wherever the good news is shared, may we remember her as we share our passion for the gospel, for the good news of God’s salvation for all people. It is a risky adventure, but one worth the cost.
Gracious and loving God, we remember the unnamed woman who risked anointing Jesus, who stepped out to share her faith in you and in your Son. Give us the courage to step out in faith, to remember her acts, and spread the good news of salvation in her memory.
Rev. Matt Every
First Christian Church, Bowling Green
The full Lenten Devotional Booklet can be downloaded by clicking HERE.