Matthew 26:6–8 (NIV; see also Mark 14:1-10, Luke 7:36-50, and John 12:1-11)
The four gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—each brought their own unique perspective to telling the story of Jesus’ life, and so there are many differences in what they say. Not disagreements; just differences. Each writes for a different purpose, each writes for a different audience, each emphasizes different aspects of the story.
Because of those unique perspectives, whenever we find something shared across all four gospels, we need to sit up and take notice. And on this day—in these last hours before Jesus will be arrested, tried, and crucified—we notice Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, in the home of a leprous Pharisee.
Everything about the scene seems wrong: Jesus and his disciples are in the home of a Pharisee—a religious sect that’s never been particularly friendly to Jesus. The Pharisee, Simon, is—or at least was—a leper … and therefore is—or at least was—an outsider. The “social distancing” we are experiencing today doesn’t hold a candle to what a 1st century leper endured! And sitting at Jesus’ feet, in the place reserved for disciples, is a woman. That should astound us, because in the Jewish world view, a woman couldn’t be the disciple of a rabbi. Apparently Jesus had a different world view.
According to Luke, this unnamed and very out of place woman had “lived a sinful life.” He offers no elaboration, just leaves it to our imagination. John—always concerned about relationships and people—gives the woman a name: Mary. Sister to Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. In fact, John tells us all three siblings were there: Martha serving (as always!); Lazarus and Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet.
And then there’s the crash of pottery as Mary—sinful, forgiven, devoted Mary—breaks open a bottle of ridiculously expensive perfume and pours the whole thing over Jesus’ head and feet in an act of anointing that makes no sense to us today. But in that home on that day, it made sense to two people: Jesus and Mary. Of course, everyone else in the room saw only dollar signs; the perfume, we’re told, cost a year’s wages! Can you imagine?
And so here we are today, faced with a choice: We know resurrection is just a few days away. But today … will you choose to worship Jesus? Or will your attention be diverted by the cares of the world, the lagging economy, the fears of illness or uncertainty?
Today… choose worship.