It happened in Simon the Leper’s home
in Bethany, two days before Passover.
A woman appeared during supper
carrying a beautiful jar of expensive perfume.
Jesus, disciples and Simon sat silent.
The woman too said nothing.
She broke the seal on the jar
and poured the perfume over Jesus’ head.
It seeped into his long hair,
streamed onto his clothing.
The sweet aroma filled Simon’s home.

But that was not all the filling.
Several indignant voices rose from the table,
as the woman cherished what she’d done.
“Why waste such expensive perfume?”
“She should have sold it and fed the poor!”
Harsh, scolding words poured from their lips.
The woman dropped her head in shame.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied,
defending the woman
and bringing a slight smile to her lips,
as angry men towered over her.
“She has done a good thing to me.
You always have the poor to help;
but you will not have me long.
She has done what she could
to anoint my body for burial.
She will be talked about
wherever the Good News is preached.”

It happened as the chief priests and law teachers
were looking for a chance to capture Jesus secretly
and put him to death.
They had an accomplice, a traitor,
who stood from Simon’s table
at Jesus’ rebuke
surrounded by the sweet smell
of burial anointing perfume.
Judas strode out
to arrange with the chief priests
to betray Jesus to them.
The priests welcomed him with delight
and promised a rich reward.
So from that night
Judas began looking
for the right time and place
to hand Jesus over.

Mark, pray tell,
who is this woman?
And why does she offer
such an extravagant gift?
But Mark stays silent.
We can only guess such a gift
was an act of love and heartfelt thanks.
Jesus had lavished on her God’s grace;
he had freed her fromĀ  some devilish past.
And she had come to honor him,
not knowing it portended his death.

It had been a wearying week of conflict.
At its start, Jesus had ridden a donkey’s colt
into the teeming city, where he’d die.
Passover pilgrims had welcomed him
with palm branches and messianic praises,
while priests plotted his death.

All week, from Jesus cleansing the temple
to the Jews public attempts to belittle him
to his end-of-age-judgment
to Judas’ betrayal,
conflict ruled the days and nights.
But this night came a humble woman
yearning to show love
to the Savior who had first loved her.
She gave what she had
and the sweet smell filled Jesus’ heart.
Unknowingly, she was preparing him for burial
by honoring him from her treasure.

This is Holy Week–
a week we should set aside
to meditate on it
and on what Jesus said and did
as he suffered and died.
But we don’t, can’t.
Work must be done,
church activities must be attended.
And soon it’s Monday
and while we’ve worshipped him in song
and heard a sermon of his death and rising,
we’re hardly more knowing than that woman.
We’ve ceased to sit still and ponder deeply
what Jesus said and what Jesus did
that warring week of his awful, wonderful death.

Would that, like this grateful woman,
in the clamor of a busy life,
we would quietly approach Jesus.
And while others busyed themselves,
we poured whispered praises on Jesus,
as his words and deeds of that week
sank deep into our hearts.
That woman could be our model,
and her perfume our rivers of praise,
spilling down on our Savior’s head.