by Nancy Leschke
From Pastor Joe: I’ve known Nancy as a CTR Lay Counselor, a ministry leader for this One’s for the Girls, and a co-worker for the past three years in her part-time work in communications for Christ The Rock. She’s a deep thinker, a welcoming person, and cares deeply for people who are forgotten or marginalized. I’m thankful she agreed to share some thoughts with us as we look forward to celebrating Easter together.
In this week leading up to the celebration of Easter, I find myself wondering about what Jesus’ followers were thinking in the weeks and days before He was crucified. Like us, in this time of a living with the threat of coronavirus, they found themselves living in uncertain times. In their case, living under the oppressive rule of the Romans made life unpredictable and perilous. Perhaps they were excited about Jesus’ growing notoriety, eager to remember God’s deliverance at Passover, or even hoping Jesus would deliver them from the Romans. Certainly none of them understood that Jesus was about to be part of a new and final divine deliverance.
But there was one follower who was listening carefully to Jesus’ words – and who challenges me to be better at listening to His voice, and loving Him with abandon. All the Gospel writers share an account of this particular follower: she is noteworthy because she seems to be the only one of Jesus’ followers who understood that He was about to die.
After several chapters that record Jesus’ teachings in the temple and on the Mount of Olives, Matthew tells his account of an unnamed woman in chapter 26, verses 6-13. She interrupts a dinner Jesus is attending in Bethany to anoint His head with an expensive jar of perfume (vs. 7). The disciples are appalled at the waste of money – but Jesus honors her gesture. He gives her credit for being a student of His teachings; for listening and believing what He said about His impending death. He says:
When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.
She had been listening — really paying attention — to His teachings. Just five verses before this woman enters the story, in Matthew 26:2, Jesus had directly told his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away – and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” Yet they didn’t recognize her gesture of love as honoring Jesus before His death, and preparing Him for burial.
Her attentive listening makes me ask: What I am missing from Jesus’ teachings? How can I be a better student of my Savior, as this woman was?
I am also convicted by the sheer extravagance of her love. Matthew recorded that it was “an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume.” She gave the very best – something costly and precious – and gave it totally wholeheartedly. And she felt a sense of urgency, busting into a dinner where she was not invited, and disrupting the meal with a scandalous gesture (touching a man who wasn’t a relative).
Her extravagance and boldness makes me ask: Am I willing to give when it comes with a high cost? Am I unashamed and extravagant in my love for Jesus like she was?
As we prepare our hearts to remember Jesus’ crucifixion and celebrate His resurrection, I want to be more like this unnamed woman. The twelve disciples didn’t understand that Jesus was about to change history forever — and we are also living in a time when no one can predict how our next weeks and months will unfold. But she was focused on His teaching, believed what He said, and poured out her love for Jesus in a way that was arresting and memorable to all who saw it. Jesus says about her:
I tell you the truth, whenever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
I pray that all of us at Christ The Rock will be remembered for those things too — for listening and believing Jesus’ teachings, and for pouring out our love for Jesus unashamedly so the world notices.
(The other Gospel writers’ account’s of this woman’s interaction with Jesus are found in Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50, and John 12:1-8. John names her as Mary, the sister of Lazarus.)