Posted by: Postordinandy | March 11, 2010

A sweet smell in the coming darkness

Mark is a tough book to read 2 chapters of and then try to capture collective thoughts in less than 6 hours…

Recently, we looked at chapters 13 & 14 – full of cheer these ones: signs of the end of time; the ‘abomination of desolation’ (discuss in less than 3,000 words, refer to the original Greek…); the gang’s last meal together; talk of betrayal (who me?); talk of denial (not me!); anguish in the night garden; slovenly disciples; betrayer delivers the goods; arrest, beatings and illegal trials; once, twice, three times a deny-er…

And yet, in the midst of all this darkness and despair: a sweet-smelling slice of hope. The story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ head, which seems out of place with the rest of the chapters.

Here is a lady who wastes a good deal of perfume by pouring it over Jesus. We can understand the reactions of those around her who waited for Jesus to rebuke her – just think about what she could have done with the money if she’d sold it instead!

But Jesus instead defends her – commends her even. In a phrase which draws to mind the poor widow, Jesus praises her actions: “she did what she could”.

Some have used this story top defend inaction in the area of justice for the poor and oppressed. Did Jesus not say: “the poor will always be with you”? Surely this means you cannot solve their problems… eat! Drink! Be merry while you can! This is clearly not the point Mark was trying to make. There is an appropriate extravagance when God is around. It may appear wasteful, or flippant, or irreverent – but this is simply not so.

By breaking the jar of perfume and pouring it out, she proclaimed Jesus’ own brokenness and sacrifice; by ‘wasting’ the precious perfume, she pre-empted the apparent waste of Jesus’ death; and yet by celebrating Jesus in such an extravagant manner, she also demonstrated that something good can come out of this very-same brokenness.

The woman was the one person here who was able to see some hope in the situation that was crippling the others. She brought beauty to the ominous landscape – and Jesus was right to note that her story would be told wherever the gospel of hope is told.

For us – as a local community of people who are trying to follow in the steps of Jesus so many years later – the challenge the lady lays before us is a simple one: to be prepared to give everything we have and are to Jesus; and to be a people who can see hope even in hard times and to help others see the true light that pierces the darkness.


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