As we walk with Jesus through the weeks of the Passion, we are reminded of how much waiting is involved.
Luke 9 tells us that Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem,” or “he resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Have you ever had an event or a deadline that you walked toward with mounting anxiety, fearful of the outcome? The image of Jesus, knowing what was ahead, continuing to walk day by day, living each day out, with the looming knowledge of his death, is a powerful gift for us as we sometimes plod forward. What kind of dread did Jesus endure? How must it have weighed down his spirit? Like us, he must have longed for it to be over and done with—waiting for the release of “it is accomplished.” And yet he continued living out his life, meeting with his disciples and friends; eating with them; travelling; teaching; talking. His steadfastness brings meaning to our plodding through ordinary, everyday life! We are given a glimpse of this in Matthew 26:6-13, just two days before the Passover and the events leading to his death.
While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”
Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
There is so much to wonder at in this story! The beautiful alabaster jar of perfume—and the disciples’ indignation at this “waste.” Jesus’ response shows that he was certainly not utilitarian! Our God is generous—extravagant, even—in his love, his forgiveness and his actions. (Remember the 12 baskets of leftovers from the feeding of the 5,000?) I also wonder at Jesus’ ability to receive this extravagant gift/gesture without awkwardness. He didn’t attempt to stop it, or protest that it was too much . . . he didn’t display any of the reluctance that I often have when receiving a gift or blessing: “Oh, it’s too much! I don’t deserve this!” (Which is really not the point at all! It’s not about how good I am, but about how good God is!)
The most striking thing about this story is when I imagine the fragrance of the perfume lingering over the following days. Smell can be such a powerful trigger or reminder. Did whiffs of this fragrance come, mingled with Jesus’ suffering, reminding him that he was loved, anointed, and chosen? As he was beaten and mocked, did the fragrance bring back his Father’s words: You are my beloved Son; I am so proud of you. As he dragged his cross to Golgotha, and as the crown of thorns was pressed into his head, releasing the fragrance again . . . loved, anointed, chosen.
What are the reminders in your life of God’s love? Is there a fragrance, a word, thought or verse that triggers an awareness of God’s presence with you as you wait and plod? Are you able to receive God’s grace and love in the midst of your painful journey? He is with you in the waiting.
Submitted by Cyndy Ingram