Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. Some of those at the table were indignant. “Why waste such expensive perfume?” they asked. “It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly.
“Who was this woman?” We know where it occurred, the extravagant cost of the perfume and even the container that it was in, we not definitely who she was. There has been much speculation over the centuries about who and what she was but no one can be sure. Most people assume the worst and think that she was a prostitute, as Luke suggests or it might have been Mary as John suggests. To the disdain and rejection shown by those eating at table with Jesus we add our own disdain and rejection to this woman.
Possibly her rejection was just because she was a woman. We forget that in Jesus time and culture women did not eat together with men. Perhaps she was rejected because she made the dinner guests feel uncomfortable – the generosity and extravagance of her gift might have been contrasted with their own lack of giving. Or perhaps she was someone unacceptable within the society – if not a prostitute then maybe ill or poor, or maybe she was a Gentile. We don’t know for sure.
What is Your Response?
All of us have times when we feel like this woman kneeling at Jesus feet. We want to share our loving gifts lavishly, but feel that they are unappreciated or misunderstood.
Sit quietly for a few minutes and think back over your own life. Remind yourself of situations in which you have felt misunderstood and unappreciated. Now imagine Jesus taking up your gift with love and gratitude, fully appreciative of all that you have done.
Write down your response.
This story occurs just a couple of days before the Last Supper and the foretaste of the communion feast. I wondered is this because this story challenges us to think about all those that we still exclude from our table fellowship. Jesus has embraced the outcasts and is eating at their table – the tax collectors, and Simon the leper are there but they are unwilling to welcome this woman.
I think that this woman is unnamed because she represents all the nameless and rejected ones in our society whom we still refuse to welcome to our table – people that we aren’t willing to listen to because they are different from us or unacceptable in our own Christian culture.
What is your response:
Who, I wondered are we still unwilling to welcome to our table? Whose voices are we unwilling to listen to and whose offerings are we unwilling to embrace?
Sit quietly for a couple of minutes with your eyes closed. Imagine your dining room table with a group of friends around it. Who would you invite? Who would feel excluded and why? Write down your impressions. Listen to the song below. What would it take for you to live in God’s freedom and come to God’s table as this song suggests? Pray about your responses and ask God if there is anything you need to change.