This morning, as I stare out my office window, the wind is whipping the purple fabric on the cross. Over the last two weeks, since putting up the cross, I’ve adjusted the fabric numerous times. The wind keeps grabbing hold of the ends of the material and twisting it around the cross, making it a new sight to see every day.
With each passing day though, the fabric has become more tattered. Slowly the pull of the wind is unraveling it, tearing it, and trying to remove the symbol of Christ’s royalty and kingship.
In some ways the wind’s war with the purple fabric anchors me in scripture’s telling of Holy Week. At every turn the powers and principalities were at war with Jesus, pulling on his authority, testing his wisdom, attempting to expose him as a fake so they could murder him.
Mark 14 brings us into a conversation with the chief priests and teachers of the law who want nothing more than to arrest and kill Jesus. They want nothing more than to be done with Jesus, but the text tells us that they are scared of the people who love Jesus, and they know if they arrest him, especially during Passover, there will be a riot. With hatred for Jesus brewing in their hearts, the decided to wait.
The scene shifts to the house of Simon the Leper. I guess in order to distinguish this Simon, from other Simons, Mark decided to let us know that this one had previously had leprosy. I say previously had leprosy because scholars agree that people wouldn’t be in the house of someone who was currently a leper. It’s likely Jesus has healed this Simon at some point.
They’re eating dinner together, reclined at the table, when Mark tells us that a woman came in with an alabaster jar of perfume. This perfume likely originated in India, was made of pure nard, and with the jar cost about a year’s wages. Before anyone knew what was happening, she broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head, anointing him with the oil.
We don’t know much of anything about the woman, including her motives. But entering into that space, with that jar, and breaking it is significant. She could have just poured a little perfume out on Jesus, but by breaking it makes this dramatic statement that the jar and perfume are all for Jesus. She’s literally holding nothing back.
Immediately the room erupts. Some of the people present are upset that the perfume was wasted in this way. They make the argument that it could have been sold and used to bless the poor. They even rebuke the woman harshly.
What had started as a nice meal, had become an emotional and chaotic moment.
Finally Jesus speaks up, and tells the room to back off the woman. He even praises her for what she has done, and says she’ll be remembered forever because of it. I can’t help but imagine how the people in the room felt as they heard Jesus silence them.
Jesus then points out that this happened to prepare him for his burial. Imagine how those words would have paused the conversation in the room. The burial of Jesus implies his death is immanent. The reality of these words had to have caused pain to everyone who heard them. It’s at this moment Judas actually sets out to help the chief priests with their mission to kill Jesus.
From this point forward the path to the cross will move quickly. Jesus will celebrate passover with the disciples, pray in the garden, be betrayed by Judas, suffer an unjust trial, and ultimately be killed upon the cross. Like the fabric hanging on the cross outside my window, Jesus’ body will soon being torn, punctured, and pierced, while the winds of sin and evil flail around him.
The anointing of Jesus pointed to his upcoming death, and the fulfillment of his mission to break the curse of sin.
Jesus was anointed to die for our sins so that you and I would never have to fear the curse of sin again. What wondrous love is this?
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this,
That caused the Lord of bliss,
To bear the dreadful curse,
For my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.