MUSINGS – November 29, 2018


Mark 14:1-11
It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for some underhanded way to arrest Jesus and to kill him. However, they said, “We shouldn’t arrest him during the festival, or else there will be a riot among the people.” Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had suffered from a skin disease. While Jesus was sitting there, a woman went to him. She had a bottle of very expensive perfume made from pure nard. She opened the bottle and poured the perfume on his head. Some who were there were irritated and said to one another, “Why was the perfume wasted like this? This perfume could have been sold for a high price, and the money could have been given to the poor.” So they said some very unkind things to her. Jesus said, “Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for me. You will always have the poor with you and can help them whenever you want. But you will not always have me with you. She did what she could. She came to pour perfume on my body before it is placed in a tomb. I can guarantee this truth: Wherever the Good News is spoken in the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus. They were pleased to hear what Judas had to say and promised to give him money. So he kept looking for a chance to betray Jesus.

Wow, so much is going on in this short narrative. Passover is only a couple days away. Preparing for Passover means a complete cleaning of the home to make sure it is clear of any chametz* and beginning to prepare for the Seder** feast. Those who wish Jesus dead have to hurry to get it done quickly before the holiday.

Jesus was at the home of Simon (the leper that Jesus healed) whom the religious elite looked down on as a sinner. Which just added fuel to the fire of hatred against Jesus.

A woman (possibly Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus) anointed Jesus head with nard.*** It would have been somewhat customary for a house to offer olive oil to a guest. But this perfumed oil was extremely expensive. Even Jesus’s closet friends thought it was an excessive and wasteful act.

Jesus’s response was, “She came to pour perfume on my body before it is placed in a tomb.” Over and over Jesus had told his followers that he is going to Jerusalem to die. But the still didn’t understand or chose not to accept.

It appears that perhaps Judas is the only one who believed Jesus. Judas was still looking for that early kingdom and he now realized that Jesus was not going to lead a revolt and overthrow the Roman rule. Here had, in his mind, “wasted his time” following the “wrong messiah.” This seems to be the final thing that caused Judas to betray him.

I know people today who are still trying to force Jesus into a mold that meets their expectation of who he is. He answers prayer but he is not a magic wish granter. He will lead but you have to follow. Are your expectations in line with what the scriptures say? I can guarantee that, if not, one of you have to change … and it will not be the scriptures!


*During Passover, followers of the Jewish faith are forbidden to eat, drink, or own chametz or (chometz) – food that is made from grain (barley, oats, rye, spelt, or wheat) and water and has been allowed to rise. To avoid coming in contact with chametz, people thoroughly clean their homes and living space.

**Passover is one of the most celebrated holidays in the Jewish faith, so it’s customary to dress up the table with an elegant tablecloth and cloth napkins. Scatter candles throughout the room and on the table for a warm glow. Whether you choose formal china or everyday dishware, don’t forget to keep kosher for the Seder. Put two glasses, one for water and one for wine, at each place setting. Fill an additional wine glass and place it in the center of the table for Elijah, a prophet who is thought to visit each Seder dinner. Set the Seder plate, filled with foods that symbolize the story of the Exodus, near the Seder leader’s place at the table. Arrange five items on the plate: a hard-boiled egg; a roasted shank bone; a spring vegetable such as parsley, called karpas; a mixture of fruit, wine, and nuts, called charoset; and either prepared or fresh horseradish, called maror. Some Jews include a sixth item called chazeret, often represented by lettuce. Provide each guest with a small dish of salt water to dip their greens into. To make things more convenient for guests, you can also set small dishes containing each item next to every place setting. Put three pieces of matzah on a plate, cover with a cloth or napkin, and place underneath or near the Seder plate. Make sure there is enough wine on the table for each guest to have four glasses, an amount that symbolizes the four stages of the Exodus. Substitute grape juice for the children and the teetotalers of the group. Lay a copy of the Haggadah, a prayer book that explains the story of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt, on top of each guest’s appetizer plate, under the napkin. Place a small basin filled with warm water and a towel on the table for two hand-washing rituals that occur during the meal. It’s traditional for each guest to recline on a pillow during the ceremony to symbolize the comfort of freedom.

***Nard is a class of aromatic amber-colored essential oil derived from Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering plant of the valerian family which grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India. The oil has been used over centuries as a perfume, a traditional medicine, or in religious ceremonies across a wide territory from India to Europe.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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