A blip in time chronicled an account that is notably relevant in its implications and deeply momentous in its conclusion. The story is of a woman who by all modern standards would be considered brazenly excessive. Ridiculous. Yet Christ Jesus said she did a beautiful thing.
The story involves Christ Jesus and his disciples. They were visiting Simon the leper, of Bethany. The group was sitting around the table, probably eating and talking about God. A nameless woman came into the room with a jar of very expensive ointment. The oil has been referred to as precious, fragrant, a costly perfume, pure nard.
The unadulterated ointment was stored in a vessel made of alabaster to preserve its purity. But unafraid of corrupting the ointment, the woman opened the vessel and poured it out onto Jesus’ head.
The disciples didn’t ask the woman why. They didn’t ask her name. They seethed in their perception of the woman’s misuse of that which they deemed valuable.
Since then, scholars have tried to give the woman a name, but it misses the point. The point is the woman’s Christ-like insight, which goes on forever.
At the supper table, the nameless woman became the object of the disciple’s scorn. They whispered among themselves with disgust, figuring the oil could have been sold for a high price and the great sum of money given to the poor.
But, Jesus asked them, “Why do you trouble the woman?” (ESV)
He continued, “For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
The woman honored Jesus. Her respect toward his life and work was appreciated by Jesus. The woman wasn’t preserving a human body. Her actions exalted Truth, Christ.
The slack thoughts of the disciples, on the other hand, clogged their thinking with self-righteousness and they censored the woman. They blamed her for not helping the poor. They criticized her for not allowing them to help the poor. They assumed her action was all a big waste; completely unnecessary. Why be inspired to anoint Jesus’ body when his body appeared fine?
Thankfully, the woman’s insight into the eternal Christ precluded her from being deterred by the disciples bad manners and myopic stance. She was prepared for his death and woman would be prepared for the birth of a new idea.
The disciples lacked bravery and spirituality and could not see beyond the superficial appearance. Their reality was human status-quo, familiarity, and money.
The woman saw the eternal divine Spirit ready to take on a new form. She was motivated by heavenly inspiration to acknowledge Jesus’ manifestation of God, for what it was then and what it would be a few days later. Her insight advanced truth, life, and love.
The disciples, probably even unknown to them, were bent on preserving the superficial. Apparently, the idea of the woman expressing Christ in her own way, added to their irritation and confusion, or rather added to their love of the world. For very soon after the woman anointed Jesus, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and all of the privileged disciples ran from Jesus when he was arrested to be crucified. Peter denied knowing Jesus until after the resurrection.
The human body of Jesus, poor people, and all other material symbols come and go, but Christ always remains with humanity and deserves utmost attention and care. The underlying impetus of the Holy Spirit must not be neglected.
Jesus, other spiritual leaders, language, and symbols are a means to the end of knowing Spirit, God, not the end in itself. To confuse the two is dangerous.
The disciples failed to keep a line of distinction between means and ends.
There is nothing wrong with selling things and giving the money to the poor. It is a means to an end. but not the end.
The tragedy is letting the end get swallowed up in the means. The more money given to the poor, the more poor people. The more rich people. Time must be spent enriching oneself, the poor, and the rich intellectually and spiritually.
The indignant minds of the disciples were closed to the insight of the woman which honored that which was about to die.
The disciples believed they could live and grow in their little self-centered world. They could not see the woman was following God, not them.
Although nameless, the Christ woman imaged forth a love of Truth and purity that caused her to go down in history as one who depended on God for her guidance.