Sermon: A Woman Comes…

alabaster jar

Mark 14: 1 – 11

Jesus is a troublemaker….a rabble-rouser…an instigator. He has created mayhem with the moneychangers in the Temple. He has openly criticized and challenged the Pharisees and the Scribes, the religious rulers of his people, in town after town, synagogue after synagogue.

He has ridden into Jerusalem in a procession mocking Roman pomp and circumstance, the only people who would ride in procession anywhere. But worst of all, Jesus has stirred up the people and brought them into the streets shouting and daring to hope that the Messiah, their promised Savior, has come at last to liberate them from tyranny.

Jesus is dangerous. He is a marked man. The chief priests and scribes are looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. They agree that it can’t be during this time of festival, because they are afraid the people will riot.

This is a very real fear on the part of these Jewish leaders. There were thirty-two riots during Pilate’s ten years as governor of Judea. He put down each one. And he would put them down brutally, with punishing repercussions.

Remember, the Pharisees and Scribes weren’t innately evil. They were human beings, just like us. Yes, they wanted to maintain their own lifestyles and to protect their positions and prestige. Don’t we have similar desires? None of us wants to lose our job, or lose our home, or lose the respect and friendship of our neighbors.

The problem is, the Pharisees and scribes were afraid, so very afraid. And there was so much to be afraid of. They were trying to preserve their nation. Trying to preserve their history. Trying to retain their faith and their way of life in the face of a brutal foreign occupation.

They were trying to keep the peace, and maintain the status-quo. They were trying above all else, to please and appease those who ruled over them. They were in a painfully, precarious position, sitting on a tinderbox…and they could see Jesus was a brightly, burning spark surrounded by dry, discontented tinder.

We can’t ever know what Judas’ reasons were for betraying Jesus. In John’s version of this story, Judas is a thief who has been stealing from the purse that the disciples and Jesus share among themselves for food and supplies. So it could be he betrays Jesus simply for the money.

Some scholars speculate that Judas was a rebel who wanted to lead a revolt and had Jesus arrested hoping to spark an uprising. We can’t know. But it is clear in all four Gospels, that when Jesus enters Jerusalem, he is dangerous…and he is in danger.

Then, in the midst of the scheming, the plotting, the danger and intrigue, a woman comes…

Jesus is eating in the house of Simon the Leper, a place that would be considered unclean. He is eating with a person who would be off-limits, shunned, and avoided. Leper’s were not to be associated with or even touched, much less someone you would sit and have lunch with. And yet, true to his heart, Jesus is at the table with Simon the Leper, sharing a meal.

And a woman comes…

Who is this unnamed woman?

Is it the woman from the well, who was shocked that Jesus even noticed her, much less spoke to her? Is it the Canaanite woman who’s dying daughter was healed because she begged for crumbs from the master’s table? Was it the crippled woman that Jesus claimed as a child of God, who grew straight and tall with the joy of being lifted up? Or is it the adulteress who wasn’t stoned but sent on her way in love, to sin no more?

A woman comes and she could be any woman…and she could be every woman…

In the midst of the male machinations, and politics, and power plays, greed, and betrayal, a woman comes and she brings a priceless gift. Not just the expensive perfume, but her loving devotion.

Powerful men around Jesus are planning his death. One of his chosen is collaborating with Jesus enemies.

And a woman comes with an alabaster jar, a fragile thing of beauty, filled with expensive perfume, and she honors him. A woman comes to Jesus in love and faith and anoints him and offers him succor.

And in anointing Jesus, he who has blessed so many others,

…she now blesses him.

In the midst of betrayal, scheming, greed, desertion, fear, anger, and cowardice…..a woman comes with an alabaster jar. And Jesus is tended and cared for, loved, cherished, and blessed….before he is to be broken.

I wonder if it gives him comfort and strength when he stands in a farce of a fixed trial, facing trumped up charges, accused of things he didn’t do. Perhaps the rich spicy smell of the nard oil lingers on his skin, and in his hair and reminds him that love and compassion is possible…even as he faces all that hatred and endures all that pain….

I wonder if the smell and feel of that aromatic gift, helps him remember what it’s all about, why he came, what his mission and purpose is, even as he hangs in agony on the cross. Perhaps it helps him remember he is dying to bring new life to what is good in people, and to shine light into the evil and oppressive darkness that can be found in every human heart.

I hope that it was a parting gift for him – a reminder that he made a difference in the lives of so many people, a reminder that he brought healing, and comfort, and love… I hope it reminded him that his message would live on…even after he was gone.

A woman came….

…and I hope that her touch and her tears were a gift that reminded him of all the best that human beings can be, a gift that he carried in his heart through all the worst that human beings could do in the coming days.

This story of caring and loving generosity literally in the middle of plotting hatred and betrayal, reminds us that in the midst of the worst we can be, there is also the best we can be. This story reminds us that we have the potential to be any of people we see in this story, so our question today is…

What does Jesus healing and gift of salvation inspire us to do in Jesus name?

We get to choose how we respond to Jesus sacrifice and call – with fear, reluctance, resistance? Stubbornly clinging to the status quo? Or with loving kindness, generosity, faith and devotion?

As we head toward that Last Supper where bread is blessed and broken, As we journey to the cross with Jesus, where his body is broken, we need to listen for Jesus calling us to be broken open like the alabaster jar, so that we can pour love and healing into all the broken places in the world in Jesus name.

Jesus breaks our hearts so that we can bring love into the midst of hate; Joy in the midst of sorrow, Peace into the middle of war; Justice where there is prejudice; welcome where there are closed doors; and hope where there is only despair. Jesus breaks our hearts open, like the alabaster jar, so that we can pour out as blessings on the children of God, bringing love, being love, becoming nothing but love.

Jesus calls….a woman comes…a blessing is given…a body is broken…and our hearts and our world are broken open forever.

Never to be the same.

Hosanna. Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is she who comes in the name of the Lord.

Let us pray,

Jesus, Fill us with the crumbs from your table. Reach out your hand and raise us up. Claim us as your own. Pour us into the world to bring love, healing and comfort in your name. Amen

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