And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:3-9
Our church begins this season of Lent by focusing our eyes on Jesus. The theme will run through the weeks leading up to Easter, replete with devotions each day from the devotional book, “Eyes on Jesus.” I’ll be using these devotions as a launching pad – not only for for the Sunday and Wednesday worship themes, but also this blog during these weeks
I am struck by the host of this event, “Simon the leper.” There is a very similar event recorded in Luke’s gospel (Luke 7:36-50) in the home of a different Simon. In that encounter, a different Simon – a Pharisee – is harshly judgmental toward the woman. Here Simon the Leper is an observer, and others are offended at this effusive outpouring of adoration on the part of the woman.
As a (former) leper, Simon surely knew what it was like to be ostracized and put at arm’s length. He would have been shunned and isolated as long as he had the disease. I could imagine him being quite sympathetic as the others there withdrew from her in this awkward moment.
I’m not sure he knew what to do when this woman breaks her flask of ointment. Neither did the others it seems – except for Jesus himself. Others would be judgmental – focusing on her. Others would be ill at ease and confused about what was happening. Jesus would receive the woman and her extravagant offering. He would allow this effusive outpouring of love and devotion. He would call it beautiful.
We may feel confused, anxious, off-balance, and uncertain about what to do in many different situations. If we focus on Jesus whenever that happens we will discover a degree of peace and security that comes from his perfect love and gracious kindness toward sinners. If we think we must have the answers, exert our authority, or render our judgment we will forfeit that peace and miss the beauty of Jesus’ love for all people.