Scripture Passage: Mark 14:3-9 CEB
3 Jesus was at Bethany visiting the house of Simon, who had a skin disease. During dinner, a woman came in with a vase made of alabaster and containing very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke open the vase and poured the perfume on his head. 4 Some grew angry. They said to each other, “Why waste the perfume? 5 This perfume could have been sold for almost a year’s pay and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.
6 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. 7 You always have the poor with you; and whenever you want, you can do something good for them. But you won’t always have me. 8 She has done what she could. She has anointed my body ahead of time for burial. 9 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.”
From Jesus’ very words in this passage, it we vital that we remember this woman’s actions, and remember them in relationship to the good news being announced. Christ’s words are a memorial to her. And what is gospel-esque about pouring expensive perfume and anointing Jesus’ body for burial? How do we respond to excessive and lavish displays of love for our God? Are we as the disciples or legal experts thinking, or even scolding: keep it in check!
Note that Jesus’ words hold true today: we have always had the poor with us. And we can do something good for the poor right now. In as much as we love the least of these we love Jesus. But this PDA (public display of affection) in Mark is scandalous and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere. Many in the room are repulsed. Perhaps, money wasn’t even the real issue but a good excuse—someone had to say something, right? We cynics are repulsed by young, self-absorbed love are we not? Imagine a couple in a mall kissing and hugging and fully enmeshed in one another in full display: Can’t they see, we’re not interested? That is so self-absorbed! Get a room! Completely focused on each other; completely enthralled with each other; shameless; devoid of embarrassment over the relationship; possessing a single-mindedness and tuning out the stares of social propriety. Now, this interaction in Mark is by no means romantic, much less a mall-time, puppy-love PDA. The point is that the intensity of some forms of love makes us all uncomfortable. Even a hint of sensuality or deep intimacy or touch will inevitably be occupied by an utter paranoid fear of sexuality in the American psyche. Lock the doors. Don’t let the kids out. Jesus isn’t embarrassed. Jesus doesn’t flinch. Jesus proclaims the woman’s overtures as good news, indeed! Because of her desire, she has given of herself in an intense act of worship. This Lenten season how do you respond to the Passion of Jesus? What does it mean to love him with passion and uninhibited desire?