This being Palm Sunday, I was thinking about the woman who anointed Jesus' head with really expensive oil during a meal in a stranger's house sometime between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday.
It was very expensive oil/perfume and was usually reserved for use when preparing a body after death. So Biblical scholars (usually quite pleased to solve such mysteries) nod knowingly that this represents or at the least acknowledges the "fact" that Jesus was going to die on the cross.
Even Jesus admonishes his followers to leave the woman alone; that she is indeed preparing his body for his funeral.
That's fine. That's nice and tidy and organized in story-form logic.
My question is - and I haven't heard anyone speak to this point in all the years I've been celebrating Palm Sundays -- How did the woman - a total stranger - know what to do to whom and where and when?
Yes, you're right - definitely more than a single question.
Once again, we are shown that God uses women to do His will when most of the men aren't listening. The men were still caught up with the popularity and pomp of Palm Sunday - entrance into the Holy City as heroes and chosen favorites.
They wouldn't have minded if the woman had walked up behind Jesus and laid a laurel wreath upon his brow. But she didn't.
They recognized the scent of nard - just as we today recognize carnations and mentally link it to funerals.
It wasn't as if the idea that Jesus would not live out a full and lengthy life were NEW to the disciples; Jesus had been telling them about it since the beginning of his ministry.
We do like to pretend, though, don't we? The disciples knew why they had come to Jerusalem. They knew that everything had a price and an end. But they were caught up in the revelry of false hope: the entrance into Jerusalem.
And then this stranger comes in and pours perfume onto Jesus' head and the disciples are reminded physically, visually - and especially by their sense of smell - that Jesus had come here to die.
Even their anger can't be torn away from the symbolic value of her actions. She is valuing Jesus. Rather than admitting the symbol of death behind her actions, they become angry. But their anger still centers on value. They rebuke her for wasting money (a year's worth - think $50,000 now-a-days). Along the centuries since then, I'm sure someone had to suggest that she must have been crazy to waste that kind of money.
Crazy. There it is. The word alluded to in this whole passage. This woman shows up with a jar of funereal perfume worth a year's salary and breaks it open over the head of a living man. If she showed up at a ritzy restaurant in NYC and did the same thing to a celebrity, she'd have been hustled off into a padded room for three days. It was a crazy thing to do. A frighteningly crazy thing to do.
So why did she?
I believe it was because she heard God's voice and was willing to follow His Will even if it meant that people would think she was crazy.
I wish I could find out more about this woman. God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus - a pure and kind and gentle young girl. Who did He choose to anoint the body of his son at the time of his death? That was an honorable role not usually assigned to strangers but to respected members of the family.
Who was she? What becomes of her after that night? Was it her money that purchased the oil? Did she use all she had? Was it an inheritance or a betrothal price which she now would never be able to pay?
What lesson did she learn from this?
What lesson do we learn from this?
Even in the midst of celebrity, beware of false hope.
Even in the actions of a crazy person, recognize the hand of God.