Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reflections on Jesus' Anointing: Part 1 - Feet

The story of Jesus' anointing can be read in all four of the canonical Gospels.  We'll take a look at Mark 14.3-9 (NRSV).   [Picture - I took of sculpture at Santa Barbara Mission depicting sinful woman being helped by Jesus]

3While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.4But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8She has done what   she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

What's tough for the disciples to understand here is that even though Jesus taught them that care for the poor is a priority, it is not thee priority of a follower of Jesus.  When Jesus tells them, "you always have the poor with you" (14.7) he is not telling them that poverty will never cease, so they might as well not worry about it so much.  Instead, he is teaching them that as followers of The Way, they should purposefully be surrounding themselves with the poor.  Even as we should be creating relationships with and caring for the poor, we should even more so be cherishing our time with Jesus, who sustains us and enables us to care for some one other than ourselves.  

This is why we worship.  I would argue that the definition of worship is to figuratively and often times literally fall at the feet of someone or something.  In our case, I really like the Gospel of John's twist on the story (John 12.3),  where the very costly perfume is poured on Jesus' feet (instead of his head).  Mary (according to John's Gospel) anoints Jesus' feet as an act of worship!  

So the deeper message and reality for disciples is that when we have the opportunity to fall at Jesus' feet, and give to him what is so very costly to us, we do so as we give our lives in worship.  It is here where we lay our gifts and our crowns at the feet of the King.  And, it is here where we expose our broken selves to the mercy of Jesus where we receive our calls to serve and care for the poor.  All attempts to care for the poor without the sustaining patience and guiding wisdom of God, as we see here, have much potential to be in vain, no matter what we perceive our motives to be.  

What are your thoughts on the relationship between worship and charity?


  1. Hello. i was searching for an image of this text and decided to drop by. i agree that it is the time with Jesus that is most important. i want to highlight what Mary did. what she did was truly amazing. she gave her life in service for God. I think she gave all in that perfume. what she loss to buy that perfume was gain because it was given for God. She then became part of history because of one single act.
    I combine worship and charity, i don't see how they are not connected. God bless!