#HolyWeek2021 – Holy Wednesday: Jesus Is Anointed

Welcome to the Clincarthill Parish Church Holy Week Reflections. My name is Isabel. Today is Holy Wednesday, and we reflect on the theme of “Jesus is Anointed”. We read about this in the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 14:

1Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2‘But not during the festival,’ they said, ‘or the people may riot.’

3While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? 5It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly.

6‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’

10Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over. AMEN.

Jesus was certainly right – whenever the Gospel is preached, this story about the woman who anointed Jesus is told. Here it is for us to read and hear! But, why is it so significant?

Yesterday, in our Holy Week journey, we learned about how we have rejected God, and that God, through Jesus, was committed to rescuing us from that rejection. If you are already familiar with Jesus’ story, then you will know that part of this rescue involved His death and resurrection. This moment is so special because the actions of the woman tell us a lot about what was going to happen to Jesus, and about her faith.

In ancient times, it was customary to anoint a body before burial. This was partly to deal with the bad smells of death, but it was also a mark of respect: a way of showing reverence to the person who had died. Now, obviously, Jesus is not yet dead… but the fact that the woman anointed Him is a sign that His death would happen soon. This is a little pre-warning to those around Jesus, and to us reading today: Jesus is preparing for His death.

It was strange to anoint someone before they died – which is perhaps why the disciples reacted the way they did! It seems that this woman knew something about Jesus that they didn’t: she had some sense that His death was immanent, and would be significant. While she may not have known exactly, she clearly believed in Jesus in some way, and that faith led her to do as she did. And that is why Jesus wanted her to be remembered: because of her faith in Him.

Take a moment and reflect: what would it mean for me to have the same kind of faith in Jesus as this woman?

If you are taking part in building a Holy Week display, today’s symbol is a perfume jar. Add the jar to the display, as a reminder of the woman’s, and our, faith.

Our Holy Week journey continues tomorrow, so please join us for that. To conclude, let us share in a prayer:

Dear God: thank you for this woman, and for her demonstration of faith. Help us to remember her, and to try and put as much faith in Jesus as she did. As we continue our Holy Week journey, and get closer to the moment of Jesus’ death, help us to keep our faith and to understand why the things that happened to Jesus happened in the way that they did. Continue with us we pray, in Jesus’ name; Amen.