It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. Mark 14:1-11 ESV
Contemplating this passage for the upcoming week’s devotions…
Utter either word in our popular culture and there will undoubtedly be assumed churchy connotations of institutional religion of one form or another. How remarkable that what is in many ways the ultimate picture and demonstration of true worship was performed in an outcast leper’s home by someone with essentially no status in the religious institutions of the day. Here was no official sacred space, no formal service or offering by authorized clergy — in fact, the clergy in this setting are in their “church” plotting the murder of Life.
“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” So reads the ancient proverb. You can’t help but wonder how well that proverb catches what happened in that leper’s home in the eyes of all the onlookers.
Jesus said it was beautiful. If the proverb had any applicability at all in his eyes, it was to the ugly acts of the religious elite in their beautiful temple and in the ugly judgments erupting into loud protest and complaint from the “chosen ones” — Jesus’ inner circle of disciples.
“She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
The aroma of the outsider’s worship in the outcast’s home filled the house and no doubt followed Jesus right through his imminent arrest and trial and crucifixion. It was a deed that had little to do with practicality or calculation. No thought given to what a “royal waste” of time and resources it would be judged by others to be — in fact, no evidence that any thought beforehand had been given whatsoever as to what others might think or say. It wasn’t so much a matter of logic as it was a matter of love — reckless, passionate, impulsive love. And coming at a time when, particularly during this previous week in Jerusalem, everyone was wanting something from Jesus, this woman did something extravagant and passionate and costly for Jesus. Up close. Messy and sweet. Personal.
And Jesus said it was beautiful.
Has me thinking about what such passionate, up close, messy & sweet, and personal “worship” to Jesus might look like today. I mean like this morning…this afternoon? What is my alabaster jar? What is the ointment? And on whose head — on which of “the least of these” — will it be poured, just because? What will my “nardy” (as opposed to nerdy or gnarly) worship be?