She Did What She Could
Greetings, fellow disciples of Jesus,
Today is Wednesday of Holy Week. This day has sometimes been called “Spy Wednesday” in reference to Judas looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus to those who sought His death.
In Mark’s Gospel, the plot to arrest and kill Jesus and Judas’ betrayal is put in contrast with the faithful actions of an unnamed woman (Mark 14:1-11):
1 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; 2 for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.” 3 While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. 4 But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
Whereas Judas was willing to give Jesus up for almost nothing, the woman was willing to give up much in an expression of her devotion to Jesus. She could not keep Jesus from suffering and death, but she did what she could in a profound act of worship. Whether or not she understood what she was doing, Jesus says that her offering anticipated His passion and death—His offering of Himself for the sins of the whole world. Remarkably, Jesus states that her act will be inextricably linked to the telling of the gospel. Here we are two thousand years later still speaking of it!
We, like the woman, cannot keep Jesus from going to the cross. We, like the woman, can offer ourselves to Jesus in worship. As we contemplate the sacred mysteries of this week, let us do what we can: ponder the singular sacrifice of Jesus’ death on the cross; rejoice at the glorious good news of His resurrection from the dead; give thanks for the promise that His death and resurrection is for us who believe forgiveness, life, and salvation; and dedicate our lives to worship of Him and service to our neighbor—especially the poor.
Standing with you in awe as we hear again the passion of our Lord,