And so it begins. Jesus has finished this multi-chapter diatribe wherein he thoroughly exposes the scribes and Pharisees’ hypocrisy and talks of the King’s return, and, in do doing, puts the insiders on the outside and outsiders on the inside. After all that, he says, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” As I read this today, I pictured him saying it like, “and, so, y’know… they’re probably gonna kill me for this”. He is fully aware of what he’s doing and what will come of it.
Then this beautiful scene takes place. Jesus is in the house of leper when a woman anoints him with expensive perfume. And the disciples are upset and call it a waste. Maybe they’re well intentioned, but whenever I read this, I hear self-righteousness coming out of them. It’s as though they say this just to get good marks with Jesus. He doesn’t bite. He affirms the woman’s sacrifice and considers it preparation for his burial. We’ve come full circle. At his birth, back in chapter 2, he was given myrrh, and here he’s given it again. The Greek word for “costly ointment” is “muron” (μυρον) and is an ointment said to contain myrrh. This is a good service to him, but it does seem wasteful, I think. While I hear some self-righteousness in the disciples, I also tend to agree. In light of all Jesus has said, done and preached, they have a point!
The distinction, I wonder, might be this: No one told this woman she had to give Jesus anything, but she comes and gives what she has in the most authentic and pursuant way she can. Think about it: She entered some one’s house. Did she know Simon the leper? Or did she just hear Jesus was in there, had to get to him, and barged in to give him whatever she had. The gift was not so much the oil as it was the heart that gave the oil. Her gift was authentic and pure, and this, I believe, is what Jesus desires of us. Jesus wants our hearts, and whatever gifts we give him, must come authentically from the heart. Jesus’ life began with outsiders, coming from far off lands in the East, who pursued him and gave him gifts from their hearts. And here, Jesus’ life will end with another outsider, who pursues him and gives him a gift from her heart. The kingdom is breaking wide open with people from all walks of life authentically pouring their lives out to him. May we do the same this Holy Week; may we be a people of all walks of life, who pursue Jesus relentlessly and authentically give him our hearts. His body has been prepared, his disciples warned, and his betrayer set in motion. Today is the day. The time is now.