Have you ever heard the story of when a woman broke open a bottle of perfume and poured it over Jesus’ head? I’m guessing that even if you’re not a person of faith, you’ve heard that story. And, interestingly, Jesus himself said that people would be telling her story for generations to come.
This is Holy Week. The week that Christians celebrate the last week of Jesus’ life. From Palm Sunday (when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey) to Easter Sunday (when he rose from the grave) and everything in between.
About this time in the week, just days before he was crucified, he was hanging out at a man named Simon’s house. Simon was a Pharisee. A leader in the Jewish faith. There was no room, really, for a sinful woman such as she to enter his house, but there she was. She came in, wept at Jesus’ feet, dried her tears with her hair, and broke a jar of perfume, pouring it on his head.
This was a major act of repentance and, on Jesus’ behalf, an act of forgiveness. We know it is about repentance and forgiveness because Jesus went on telling a parable about just that.
But, I see something else here, too. Sacrifice. A repentance so deep, a love so deep, that this woman was willing to give up probably the most valuable thing that she had. And, by their grumbling about giving to the poor, everyone else in the room knew of the perfume’s great value, too. She didn’t care. She was there for one thing only. To anoint Jesus for his burial.
It’s early in the morning, and this is the passage I’m reading for today as I too celebrate the life and death of Jesus this week. Only this week is truly unlike any Easter season I have ever experienced. Never have I ever been separated from my family and friends as I am now. Never have I felt the crushing blow of learning that so many of my fellow citizens, fellow humans, would potentially die of an illness that we know little about. Never have I felt the loom of a desperate economy struggling to catch up. I’m not sure I’ve ever before seen so many friends who have lost their jobs and truly do not know what the next step is. Yes, I’m old enough. Yes, I lived through other recessions. Yes, I lost much in 2008. But this seems. . .different.
I think of this unnamed woman in the Bible. Her story can become our story, can’t it? See, in these times, we can be so incredibly close fisted. We can be frightened for the future and unwilling to give. We can feel the need to stockpile for the future. We hoard our money, our resources, our things, our time, our safety, all of it, because the future is so incredibly uncertain. We can’t possibly give, or give more, because one day it all might be taken from us.
Did this woman care about that? No. She went right into a place where she was not welcome and did something so big, so extravagant, that Jesus himself said her story would be told for generations to come. And look at us proving him right.
As you look at Easter, how can you come to Jesus open handed? What can you give? How can you sacrifice? Are there needs around you waiting to be met? Is there something that you can sacrifice for Him?
This week, and any week really, we can come to Him desperate yet willing to give it all. We can come to him open handed rather than close fisted. We can come ready to give, ready to serve, ready to love. Our needs are still there, and our fear may be great, but He is worthy of everything we have. He is worthy of our greatest gifts. Anoint Him today, and the rewards will be worth it.