In Matthew, we have been climbing God’s holy hill. The going has been rough lately, actually ever since Peter made his profession and Jesus began to teach about His coming death. But Jesus’ words on the coming destruction of the Old Covenant and Temple have been even a little tougher to get through. Obviously, something big is about to happen!
And then, here in Matthew 26, after struggling to have come this far in our journey, the rest of the mountain opens up for us. We can see that what we’ve been through so far is child’s play compared to the last three chapters of Matthew. Suddenly, everything gets more intense. It reminds me of Einstein’s theory of relativity, according to which when an object with mass accelerates and gets close to the speed of light it comes closer and closer to weighing an infinite amount.
The closer we start getting now to Calvary, the heavier we get. And so after Jesus had finished His sayings in chapters 24-26, He tells His disciples that the Passover is soon approaching and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified. There, He’s said it plainly, not only that He must die but also how. Immediately after this, the antagonists of the story, the chief priests, scribes, and elders of the people take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us plot a way to kill this Jesus by trickery.” By verse 14, Judas Iscariot goes to the chief priests and makes his demonic deal with the chief priests.
But sandwiched in between the forces of darkness and some notorious villains is a light that shines in that darkness. She is the woman who anointed Jesus for His burial. She is the woman who extravagantly took an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil and poured it over the head of Jesus. She is the woman whose deed will shine in the world wherever the Gospel is preached.
And we’re supposed to be like her.
It might help to know that the fragrant oil she used was probably worth about a year’s wages and was therefore very costly to her. So costly was it that the disciples (especially Judas) are indignant at the waste. Why, after all, the money could have gone to the poor!
But what this woman did (John tells us it was Mary of Bethany), extravagant as it was, she did for the most valuable thing in the world: her Lord. What an honor to anoint the Anointed One! In Matthew and Mark, she anoints Jesus’ head, as the priests and kings and prophets were anointed in the Old Testament, for He is the Prophet, the Priest, and the King. But in John’s account, she anoints His feet, wiping His feet with her hair. She does this a full chapter before the Lord washed His disciples’ feet on Maundy Thursday. Apparently, she had an idea of not only how important Jesus was but also of how we should serve Him.
This Mary is the same Mary who chose the one thing necessary, to sit at the feet of the Lord and worship Him. The feet that she anointed were the same feet at which she sat, adoring.
And we are to be like her. But there’s just one thing: the physical body of Jesus Christ is up in heaven, and so we can’t anoint His feet. Besides, I’m all out of spikenard and don’t have the money to buy some more.
There is one thing you could do. When Jesus’ physical body ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to breathe life into the mystical Body of Christ on earth, the Church. We do have the Body of Christ with us, and we are to anoint it. She took her glory, her hair, and wiped the feet of Jesus, besmirched with the dirt of the earth, with it. She took something very important to her and sacrificed it to the Lord.
As Mary anointed the body of Christ, so must we. Do you remember the parable of the talents (it was just last chapter)? How do you think the Master would want you to invest the gifts and talents He’s given you? He’s given you your spiritual gifts so that you might edify, anoint, and adorn the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).
Do you believe that the Church is truly the Body of Christ? St. Paul certainly thought so, and so has the majority of Christians throughout history. This is no mere figure of speech. Something about God taking on human nature, and something about Christ’s sacrifice, and something about our union with Christ through baptism and faith leads to the blessed belief that through the power of the Holy Spirit we are the Body of Christ on earth. We are how He works in the world today.
The question for today, then, is, “How might I go about edifying, anointing, or adorning the Body of Christ today?” What you do to and for your brothers and sisters in Christ (for they are the Church) is what you do to Jesus Himself. It might be the case that one of your brothers or sisters in Christ are among the poor, who are still with us, and that God is asking you to serve them in some way. It might be that you have the gift of teaching, and yet have buried that talent. Maybe your local church is looking for volunteers for an important ministry and God is asking you to anoint His Body in this way. Some of you may be called to anoint Christ’s body with your tears, in the difficult work of prayer.
There are more spiritual gifts than the 20 listed in Scripture, and there are many ways to use each of these gifts to anoint the Body of Christ. Ask God today to show you how He would like you to care for His Body, remembering that He has called you to this sacred task.
When you do, something beautiful will happen: as with Mary’s spikenard, the house, God’s house, will be filled with the fragrance of your ointment. And that fragrance is the fragrance of Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, whom you have just anointed.
Prayer: O Almighty God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- Where have you smelled the fragrance of the saints anointing the Body of Christ in your life?
- Consider what spiritual gifts God has given to you and how they might be used to edify the Body of Christ.
Resolution: I resolve to listen for the one way the Lord is asking me to anoint His Body today, and then to do what He wills.
Mary Anointing Jesus’ Feet – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license