An Unforgettable Act: The Pouring Out of Grace

By: William D. Shiell

One of the first confessions of faith in Mark happens right before the Last Supper. She doesn’t speak. She gestures by anointing Jesus’ body before he dies.

In Mark 14, a woman enters a dinner party with an alabaster jar. More than likely the bottle-like jar would have easily fit into her clothes. The bottle was shaped with a round applicator on top for dispensing. Instead of gently smearing the nard, however, she broke the jar and made a mess. In a room full of people wanting to be seen with Jesus, she was there in hopes that Jesus would see her.

The smell of the room subsides long before the complaints from the finance and missions committees end. The people scold her, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.”

While others behave self-righteously, Jesus hears a gospel message. The NRSV translates Jesus’ words the way John Calvin describes the scene– as “a beautiful performance.” Jesus says, “She has performed a good service for me. . . . . . Wherever the good news (gospel) is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

On the way to the cross, be sure to watch for a sermon. More than likely someone will offer an abundant, extravagant act of grace in the middle of something else more organized. She has a word for you that Jesus is paying attention to. As one woman demonstrates, these messages will be remembered for a long time to come.

 

 

March 24, 2016

William D. Shiell

President, and Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching

ABOUT William



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