Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto (1518-1594), Supper at the House of Simon
Well, here we are in the countdown to Easter, and today's story is the well-known anointing of Jesus. This is Mark's account of the event...
Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. ‘But not during the festival,’ they said, ‘or the people may riot.’
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.
‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
I think we always read through our own prism of life experiences, and to me it is Jesus' humanity that shines brightest through this, and all the events, of Holy Week.
He is enjoying dinner at a leper's house, among the outcasts of society at the time. He is on the wanted list of the powerful decision-makers, but he is unafraid...
An unknown woman (not a 'sinner', not Mary Magdalene) comes and breaks open a costly jar of perfume to anoint him - does she 'know' that in a few days' time his friends from Bethany will be anointing his dead body for burial?
The guests rebuke her - and the extravagant waste of money - which they think could have put to much better use by helping the poor. And Jesus rebukes them with these astonishing words, 'The poor you will always have with you... But you will not always have me.'
His focus is totally on the woman, whose name we'll never know, but whose beautiful act is indeed remembered 2000 years later!!
As we also remember Judas' decision, made right here, to betray Jesus...
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Do you know 'Silence and Honey Cakes' by Rowan Williams?