Matthew 26:1-13 

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

It’s the Tuesday after his triumphal entry, and Jesus is lurking in Bethany, on the outskirts of town, at the home of Simon the Leper, when bracketed by brutality comes a beautiful story.

The chief priests and elders are pushing Caiaphas to lower the boom, and be done with Jesus. Judas has one foot out the door to get things rolling, when an unnamed woman suddenly appears and breaks open her alabaster jar – a year’s wage gone, just like that, hence the disciples’ angry, head shaking question, “Why the waste?”. A question any one fighting the world’s battles would ask. But Christ Jesus silently approves.

Use your senses. Look at her pouring it out onto his head, in a quick moment, as if she’s lost control. Smell the pungent fragrance. Listen to her mumbling word of some ancient psalm as she rubs the oil into his hair. Hear also and more clearly the disgust of his friends. Sit in that space for a while with your senses. Finally Jesus says something. What does his voice sound like when he says, “She blesses me, she makes me ready to be buried.” What do you see in his eyes when he looks up, dripping wet, and asks, “Why are you troubling this woman?” What lingers in your heart when he promises with his “Amen, amen” (truly I tell you) “what she has done will be remembered and told forever.”

The scandal is the gift, revealing that nothing else matters to her than blessing Jesus, lavishing him with what she has to give. It’s beautiful how she pours out herself with the Nard. Wonder with me what she knows about him that the others miss?  What is it? Who knows, maybe she was an angel sent from heaven?

But alas, the moment will not linger, it’s gone quickly, as Judas slams the door in disgust on the way out. It is this beauty that sets things in motion, once and for all. It’s Tuesday of holy week. Sit in the quiet and contemplate the beauty and shame of it all.

Peter Hawkinson

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