Musing 3.19.21

6 Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7a 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. 8But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? 9For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’ 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ 
Matthew 26:6-13

At this past Wednesday’s Lenten Bible study, our group discussed the above story from the last week of Jesus’ life. It is sometimes called “The Anointing at Bethany,” or “The First Dinner.” The Last Supper is much better known, and it overshadows the First Dinner. This dinner is significant in that it focuses on the role of women in Jesus’ life. At the Last Supper the disciples don’t come off well with talk of betrayal and denial. At the First Dinner they as also don’t shine. They criticize the woman’s action.

On the other hand, this unnamed woman (we know the disciples’ names) steps up. Jesus has told the disciples about his coming death, but they don’t grasp what he is saying. The woman gets it. She understands that he is doing to die soon. She anoints his body for burial. Her action must have given Jesus such comfort. It is a beautiful thing that she has chosen to be with Jesus at this difficult time in his life. It is a beautiful thing she takes a risk to stand by Jesus when others won’t. It is a beautiful thing that she doesn’t deny, betray, or reject Jesus. Matthew tells us that the anointing ointment was very costly. Her action isvery costly to her. In so clearly associating with Jesus, she risks denial, betrayal, and rejection. She is clearly a disciple. She will not forget him. She will remember him. It had to give Jesus courage.

Jesus says that “wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” What has she done? She stands in beautiful solidarity with Jesus. She strengthens him in his journey. That is what will be remembered. It is usually the case that Holy Week focuses on Jesus’ solidarity with us, and that is right. I thinks this is because we focus exclusively on the Last Supper. Yet this story of the First Supper is about her solidarity with Jesus, and that too is right. In a sense she is being Christ to Christ. And I imagine this unnamed woman was not even aware of it, but she knew she loved him.

When we suffer and someone stands in solidarity with us, we remember it. We remember it as a beautiful thing. We can recall times in our lives when people have done beautiful things to us, with us, and for us. And we know the names of these people – teachers, children, parents, pastors, doctors, neighbors, nurses, friends. They have been Christ to us, and we are thankful.

We are probably hard put to recall times when we have been Christ to others. That is as it should be for we were focused on them, not ourselves. Love doesn’t keep score. We probably don’t remember what we did. As far as we know, we are unnamed to them. Yet they remember and are thankful.

As Holy Week approaches and the remembrance of the First Dinner draws near. Let’s remember the unnamed woman’s action and do something beautiful for Christ. Let us stand in solidarity with the Christ of love.

Be safe and well.