Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Matthew 26:1-19) transports me to the first century underworld of conspiracy and collusion as the powers that be set plots in motion and the mole in Jesus’ inner circle strikes a deal for sabotage. Sandwiched between the intrigue of the palace plots and the silvery subversion of Judas is the anointing of Jesus, a preparation for burial. An unnamed woman enters the unclean house of a leper named Simon and pours expensive perfume on Jesus as he reclines at the table for a final meal with his close friends from Bethany.
The dumb-witted disciples don’t have a clue. They don’t get the symbolism or the significance of what this woman is doing. They are focused in on the financial implications of this action, imagining how many poor folks could eat from the proceeds of the perfume, if it were put on EBay or some such auction block. Jesus comes to the aid of the nameless woman, saying that she has brought beauty into the house with this ministry. And her beautiful anointing would forever be told in the gospel stories, across the universe, translated into every language. Jesus said the memory of this woman would never fade. She is unforgettable.
We don’t do a lot of anointing these days. Or maybe we do, and don’t realize it. It’s interesting to look at that word and its origins. To anoint, in the old Latin, meant to smear, especially to smear grease or oil on someone. It was first used in healing practices, and later came to be a spiritual practice. In anointing Jesus, this woman smeared beauty on the head of the one who was about to die an ugly and gruesome death. Another significant note is that the word Christ, the title given to Jesus of Nazareth, literally means the anointed, the smeared one. How true. Jesus as the smeared savior. He was smeared in so many ways, and continues to be, by the powers out for more control and the subversives out for more moolah. And he continues to be smeared in beautiful ways by those who are willing to enter into the unclean houses of the marginalized, the despised, the feared, and pour out their hearts and souls for his praise. And to all those who enter those houses with their alabaster jars, and to that first nameless woman who poured beauty onto the head of the anointed, we can sing. . . Unforgettable, that’s what you are, unforgettable though near or far, like a song of love that clings to me, how the thought of you does things to me, never before has someone been more unforgettable.
How about you? Where does this Promise Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.