You receive the assignment. You pray and prepare. You ready yourself for the moment when the time arrives to do what you have been chosen to do. You enter the room and take the stage, the pulpit, the podium, the microphone, etc. But, instead of acceptance, the atmosphere is charged with negative energy. “Who does she think she is?” “She’s not qualified for the job.” “Who told her she could do this?” “She really needs to take a seat.” “Who gave her the authority?” “They should have chosen someone more qualified.”
There is nothing worse than feeling unwanted, uninvited, or misunderstood, especially when the crowd lets you know what they are thinking about you, through their actions and their words. Now, you have two choices: to retreat and give up OR press forward knowing that God has equipped you for a “time such as this.” Pushing fear aside, you shed those feelings of inadequacy to take a leap of faith and remind yourself: “I CAN do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me.”
In being and doing YOU, you must take the risk of not being received and not being understood. It doesn’t matter what “they” think because you know that you are a carrier of a calling and the calling has been uniquely given to you by God. It is the love and faith you have for God which moves you forward and past all the negative energy which attempts to hold you back.
This is also the circumstance of the narrative we will consider in our study of Mark 14: 3-9. The unnamed woman who most scholars suggest is Mary of Bethany (the same Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus) was given an unprecedented assignment by God – one which could have resulted in her own death ( men stoned women for burning dinner in ancient Israel!). Yet, we see that Mary dares to do the great deed God has assigned to her. She steps into an arena where she is uninvited (the gathering of men at the house of Simon), unwanted, and certainly misunderstood; but nothing matters to Mary except one thing: to show her love for Jesus. Mary is a miracle in motion and a vessel of honor, so men’s opinion of her is irrelevant. Mary answers the call and completes task. In doing so, she is remembered and honored for her great deed which will be proclaimed to the whole world. Her fearless and radical action reminds us that God has and will give us, women, kingdom assignments that will change the world
. ……………………… And now THE WORD from our Sponsor
4 Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. 5 “It could have been sold for a year’s wages* and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly.
6 But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? 7 You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discuss.”
Also see Matthew 26: 6-13
SYNOPTIC – Presenting or taking the same point of view; used especially with regard to the first three gospels of the New Testament. Mark (the oldest gospel), Matthew (the second gospel written), and Luke (the third gospel written which was at one time Luke-Acts). John, the youngest gospel is NOT considered a synoptic. Mark, Matthew, and Luke share the same sources and agree in content for most stories written by the three Evangelists of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Who was this bold woman who decided to enter the house of Simon the leper, without an invitation, and anoint the head of Jesus for burial? Mark, the Evangelist does not tell us her name, so we must use the context clues in the narrative to make an informed assumption. Simon’s house is in the town of Bethany. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus lived there. More importantly, we know that Mary is a close friend of Jesus and a woman who was emboldened, empowered, and changed by her relationship with Jesus. We do not know how Mary obtained the perfume (ointment of nard) to pour over the head of Jesus; but, we do know that it was expensive and the bold action of this woman outraged the men who watched her anoint the head of her friend and Savior.
Were the men in the house outraged because of the expensive ointment or were they outraged because of this woman’s bold action? Perhaps both, but let’s look at what Mary’s action really meant from an Old Testament context. First of all, as a woman, she would not have been permitted in a room with men without permission. We see in the text that she does NOT ask for permission. She simply enters the house. Secondly, and most importantly, Mary touches the head of not just any man; but, the man who would be King (Messiah)! In order to understand this unprecedented and radical action by Mary on behalf of Jesus, we should understand what anointing meant in ancient Israel:
ANOINTING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Hebrew word for the verb to anoint is mashach and this word is the root of messiah (the “anointed one.”) The basic idea of anointing in Old Testament culture was the hygienic practice of applying oil or ointment to smear or pour on wounds, or to provide a cleansing. The specific practice of anointing by pouring on the head was also used as a symbolic act for officially designating and setting apart a person (always a man/boy in the O.T) for specific public leadership function in the community. The three kinds of leaders anointed for their ministries in the O.T. were priests (Exodus 28:41); kings (1 Samuel 10:1); and prophets, (1 Kings 19:16). A major difference between Israel and the other nations was that when God chose someone anointed for leadership, God also provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit for the assignment to be accomplished (1 Samuel 16:13); (Isaiah 61:1). Thus, the “anointed one” was the authorized and empowered leader and the power of the anointed was conferred by the authorized agent of God, who until Mary’s action was always a man.
So, the men who watched Mary stand behind Jesus and anoint him for burial knew exactly what she meant by touching the head of the prophet, who they recognized as God’s messiah or “anointed one.” Look at the language of the text, as they confront her courageous and unorthodox behavior.
The Greek word for the term “scolded harshly,” means: to snort with anger! But, Jesus knows Mary’s intention. Jesus understands that Mary is on God’s assignment. Mary cannot be boxed in by cultural and societal confinements, or the threats of the men in the house. This is why Jesus reminds the men who are at the table that her action of faith, love, courage, and spiritual discernment will be remembered for all time (” I tell you the truth, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” – NRSV).
Questions for our consideration and discussion
Why do you think that God used Mary to anoint the head of Jesus instead of one of the disciples (Peter, John, James, etc.) What does Jesus mean when he tells the men: “What she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Besides her life, what does Mary sacrifice to get to this Kairos (sacred time) moment with Jesus?
This is an ancient story, yet Jesus tells the men at the table that this good news will be proclaimed to all the world. How does this story inform us as to what God wants us to do as the sisters of Jesus, the Christ? Mary’s empowerment and boldness did not just happen overnight. What does this tell us about our relationship with Jesus and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit? Finally, it is obvious in the text that Mary’s love for Jesus overshadowed her fears. Think about the fears you (we) have in our lives and how our relationship and love for Jesus can change these fears. What are you (we) willing to do differently?
Closing thoughts: Stepping out on faith means being vulnerable to the movement of God.
Being yourself is the divine reminder of God’s unique and holy design of and for you.
You are a carrier of a calling. When you find it, “Let it burn!”
“The enclosed materials are the property of Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters Bible Empowerment Series. They may be used by you with our permission which may be revoked at any time. All copies of the material must include the following notice: “This material is Copyright (2016) Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters, and is distributed with permission.”
written by Maxine E. Garrett
The Sending Prayer
Send us forth, O God, with every breath of thanksgiving,
Every thought wrapped in compassion, every word filled with kindness,
and every deed a channel of Love. Through your grace may our lives become a prayer.