top of page

Lent Reflections @ CEC: Questions of Jesus

“True reverence for the Lord’s passion means fixing the eyes of our heart on Jesus crucified and recognizing in him our own humanity.” — Pope St. Leo the Great

Scripture context: Matthew 26:6-13

While Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman approached him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. She poured it on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw it, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This might have been sold for a great deal and given to the poor.”

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a noble thing for me. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me. By pouring this perfume on my body, she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Question: Why do you bother this woman?

This is such an interesting scene packed into the last week of Jesus' life. Jesus is hanging out in Bethany - presumably going back and forth from Jerusalem to Bethany during what we now call Passion Week. John writes in his gospel that this scene takes place six days before the Passover. Before the triumphal entry.

Jesus is being entertained at the home of Simon the Leper. It's probable that this Simon had been healed by Jesus - or in the past had some sort of skin condition that had forced him to be declared "unclean" and labeled. But here now, he was "clean" and still labeled. Why labeled? Maybe the reason was as simple as an author making sure the readers knew which Simon they were referring to. Or maybe it was to bring out the fact this Simon had been unclean and was now clean - because of Jesus. And perhaps, out of gratitude to Jesus, he wanted to entertain and care for Jesus in his home.

Whatever the reason, we know that Jesus is in the home of Simon the leper, and that Lazarus was there, Martha was serving, and Mary was the one who anointed him with the expensive nard. (John 12:1-7)

Why did she do it? Why did Mary anoint Jesus with something so costly?

Commentators have different ideas but here is what one said:

Mary’s anointing is a prophetic act that is both a sign of Jesus’ kingship and its formal announcement.

Anointing with oil or perfume had many purposes in antiquity.

For kings and priests, anointing meant consecration for a specific purpose (see Exodus 40:15; 1 Samuel 16:12).

The sick were anointed as a ritual of healing (e.g., Mark 6:13; James 5:14)

and the dead anointed for burial (e.g., Mark 16:1).

Theoretically, Mary’s act could have meant any of these things. However, in the trial scenes, John will go on to point repeatedly to Jesus’ kingship. Because of this literary context, Mary’s actions anticipate and enact the notion that Jesus is king.

Mary didn't know any of this. She merely loved Jesus and wanted to express her love, devotion and worship. This Mary, who knew the feet of Jesus because she had spent time there. At his feet. Listening to his words. Taking in his love. Grateful for so much, including the life of her brother, Lazarus.

My friend Olivia Klinkner, years ago, taught on this passage and talked about the disciple's response to Mary's extravagant love. What did the disciples do? They "trampled on her worship." They said she shouldn't have done it, that she did it incorrectly - it should have been different. It was a waste. They "bothered" her ... troubling her about her motives, the great "waste" (in their minds).

Jesus response to the disciples was actually very similar to his response to Martha when Mary had left Martha to do all the serving ... Mary has chosen what is better. Why are you bothering her? Her worship is so great, so extravagant, that the story will be told whenever the gospel is told.

I wonder if we, too, fail to recognize when someone is offering worship to the Lord that looks different than we might expect. Perhaps the way someone would go about caring for those who have been marginalized looks different than we think it should, but it comes from a heart of worship, of care, of honor. Perhaps the way one expresses prayer or praise is out of our norm, our comfort zone. Do we also "trample on their worship" or bother them?

She has done a noble (beautiful, worthy, honorable) thing. May we learn to see the noble, the beautiful, the praiseworthy in each other as we worship Jesus with all that we are and all that we have.

Karen Callis



Forgive us when we trample on someone else's worship - when we critique, and evaluate. May we see to worship you with all that is within us - without regard for what others might think, laying everything at your feet. May we learn to worship extravagantly out of gratefulness for all that You have done for us.


42 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Apr 12, 2022

Thank you Karen. I was struck by the idea that Mary was unaware of any deep meaning in her acts. She just loved Jesus and wanted to show Him. And 2000 years later we still talk about her.



bottom of page