“I tell you the truth that, wherever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.”
Mark 14:1-9 CEB
A nameless woman with an alabaster jar served King Jesus. Her memory is synonymous with her act which proclaimed “Jesus is Lord.” Her anointing of Jesus’ head echoes Old Testament prophets, like Samuel, whom anointed Kings of Israel.
We know nothing else about this woman at Bethany besides this act. Still, her name travels at the soles of missionaries’ feet. The message of what she did for Jesus arrives, to her memory, whenever we tell the story of what Jesus has done for all of us in His lordship, in His death, and in His life. It is fitting that this anointing is one of few stories told, in some form, in all four Gospels.
The disciples scoffed at the “wasted” luxury she poured upon Jesus, because they did not understand either His death or His Lordship. Jesus rebuked His disciples for their scathing practicality, after they asked if the money could be better used to help the poor. He did not belittle giving to the poor, but rather denied that an act of service to Him must be at odds with generosity in other people.
Our own actions, our attempts to serve Jesus in the Lenten season, may seem wasteful. The sacrifices we make in devotion to Christ can seem futile and meaningless to those outside. Our gifts may be ignored, even by fellow believers, but they are always treasured by Jesus.
Lenten meditation, self-reflection, waiting on Easter resurrection, can itself feel like an exercise in futility. Fasting and introspection loses its romantic glamor. Are there not more productive things to do with our energy, time, and money than living simply or praying?
Jesus’ answer is no: the love we devote to Christ, our reflection, is not just (or primarily) to benefit us. Focusing on the “benefits” of our Lenten fasting can invert the purpose of our devotion. We may ignore the steep price Christian discipleship entails and underestimate how much Jesus treasures our gifts.
Those of us deep into years of life as Christians can face doubt which makes us wonder, “What has really been gained by all this?” The apostles doubted the wisdom this woman’s act and missed who Jesus is. Jesus is a strange King. He is anointed King by a nameless woman. Jesus is an extravagant God in what he expects (our all) and what he gives: hope eternal, life everlasting.
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O Holy God:
You treasure my gifts, as I doubt their effectiveness. You love my gifts beyond their visible uses. You remember the forgotten and nameless. Show me the heavenly worth in my life. Show me the Kingdom, especially when it flees from my senses and my thoughts about what is best. In Christ Jesus,
Jonathan is an English and Journalism teacher in Kentucky. He has a B.A. in English and History form Georgetown College. Jonathan has a Mom and Dad who live in Ohio and a brother attending Georgetown College. He lives with two roommates in a townhouse with décor accurately described as “bachelor pad auction house chic”. Jonathan is a member of Georgetown Baptist church. He studies Church history and plays Super Smash Bros. in his free time.