THE WOMAN WITH COSTLY OINTMENT another unexpected encounter with Jesus

Expectancy Living – the name of this blog, points to a way of living, contrasted to Living in ExpectaTION. (See “About” on blog home page.)

Expectancy Living – is also a lifestyle regularly visited by surprise missed by many, because of the blinders of expectaTION.

Surprises were part of the joy and mystery of Midrash, in the Jewish tradition. Midrash looks at familiar scripture with the head cocked a few degrees to the side.

Two weeks ago, I blogged a midrash about the Gerasene demoniac, who had been infected with a legion of demons. (“Midrash” is also defined in the January 14, 2013 “Unexpected Encounter with Jesus”)

There are quite a few “unnamed characters” in Mark’s Gospel, whose anonymity keeps them out of the annals of historical research. But, they were not two dimensional characters. They were real flesh and blood people, with hopes, dreams and fears, just like you and I have. The ones about whom I will share a midrash in this blog are (a) unnamed, (b) identified as a singular person (i.e. not one of a pair, like on the road to Emmaus), and (c) are usually, but not necessarily, one of the socially marginalized people.

Midrash provides insight into their being, and, maybe, into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Here’s another midrashic Unexpected Encounter with Jesus – the Woman with Costly Ointment (Mark 14:3-9):

“Mary,” called her mother, Miriam. “Are you ready?”

“Yes, mother. But please let me help. I know that I can do it. I just know that I can.”

Miriam was torn. She so wanted to make a good impression on Him. At the same time she also wanted to encourage her fifteen year old daughter. Young Mary was afflicted, in the way of teenage girls who are delayed in their development. To put it plainly, she was a Klutz – you know: clumsy. So often she would trip or spill or drop.

So what to do – make sure that it was done right and make a good impression — or give Mary a chance, and show confidence in her – help her self-image? After all, Mary was the one who had told her about Him coming.

“OK, Mary. You may do it. But please be careful.”

Mary and Miriam arrived just in time to see Him come for the dinner. They stood back for awhile and watched to see what would happen. Finally, Miriam handed Mary the container. It was an expensive alabaster jar, and it held the finest of ointments – not anything that they could afford now, but it had been handed down to Miriam by her mother, who had gotten it from her mother – back in the days when the family’s resources were not so meager.

“Just go up and pour some out on His feet to anoint them. Thank Him. And then come back to me.”

Mary did as she was told. She was so excited. And then – just as she got up close to Him, her toe caught on something, and – once again – she tripped. The alabaster jar slipped from her hands and fell right by His feet, shattering into pieces – with ALL of the ointment pouring out – not just enough to anoint His feet, but enough to anoint everyone’s feet in the room, if it hadn’t all spilled out on Him.

Mary heard her mother gasp. Oh, no! She had messed it up. Before she could do a thing, she felt the hot tears welling up in her eyes, spilling down her cheeks, and now dripping into the ointment on His feet.

“Oh, I’m such a klutz! I can’t do anything right,” was all she could think.

Things were happening all in a whirl now. The other men at the table got up and came over to see what was the commotion. She heard her mother coming up behind her to rescue her. She was frozen in her spot, not knowing what to do.

And then she looked at Him. She looked right into His eyes. And everything slowed down. Nobody was speeding toward her anymore.

That moment of when she looked into His eyes – it was just a moment – was enough to last her a lifetime. He didn’t say anything to her; He didn’t have to. His eyes said everything. They said: “You are so beautiful. I know what you intended. I am so grateful. I love you.”

And then, without even thinking twice, she knew what to do. She fell to her knees and began to do what she had come to do; she began to anoint his feet with the costly anointment. There was so much there.

She had no cloth, so, without even thinking, she began to rub the ointment into his feet with her hair. Her tears mingled with the ointment, but no longer were they tears of shame. She was crying big tears of joy. Her very worst moment had been transformed and He treated her like she was special, like she was beautiful. Oh glory!

The slow motion of the moment ended. The men continued to come over and made a big fuss about what happened. But Mary didn’t even hear what was being said. Her mother, Miriam did. Miriam had seen what happened when Mary’s eyes met His. And she stopped coming forward to rescue her daughter. It was no longer necessary.

But she heard (and later told Mary) what was said. The men had made such a fuss, and He had turned it around on them, saying that what Mary had done was such a beautiful thing. He had said that people would always remember what happened in that moment, and would tell about it whenever they told the story about Him.

She told Mary what He had said. But Mary didn’t need to hear that. She knew that He thought she was beautiful, not a klutz. He had told her that with her eyes. She didn’t know if anybody would ever remember or tell about what happened. All she knew was that she would never forget, nor ever be the same.  


((c) 2013 0128