Friday, April 15, 2011

Matthew 26:1-13


Once again we find Jesus in the company of those who are marginalized. He is in the house of a Leper

Then this strange thing happens. A woman pours expensive ointment on Jesus' head. Not Jean Paul-Gaultier or Gucci but nonetheless expensive it seems. This is not just a random thing to do. This is something you would do to a king. In the Old Testament this pattern of anointing kings is evident. So this woman anoints Jesus as king.

The disciples are outraged! What a waste of money. They are thinking like good accountants. Clearly this woman wasn't thinking about the CVP (Cost-Volume-Profit). But Jesus affirms this woman for she has anointed him in preparation for his death and burial. Her actions are fit for a king.

Stanley Hauerwas gives a brilliant discussion of this passage in relation to the poor:

Jesus' response to the disciples has sometimes been used to justify Christian wealth. Jesus' observation that we will always have the poor with us seems a counsel to justify the ways of life that assume there is nothing we can do to eliminate poverty. Yet Christianity is a faith of the poor. This woman poured precious ointment on a poor person. The poor that we will always have with us is Jesus. It is to the poor that all extravagance is to be given. The wealth of the church is the wealth of the poor...

Saint Lawrence was a deacon in the church of Rome in the middle of the third century...The prefect of the city has head that Christian priests offered sacrifices in the vessels of gold and silver cups and asked Lawrence to place before him the wealth of the church...Lawrence promised to bring forth all the 'precious possessions of Christ' if the prefect would give him three days to gather the church's wealth. The prefect gave Lawrence the three days, which Lawrence used to gather the sick and the poor:

The people he collected included a man with two eyeless sockets, a cripple with a broken knee, a one-legged man, a person with one leg shorter than the other, and others with grave infirmities. He writes down their names and lines them up at the entrance of the church. Only then does he seek out the prefect to bring him to the church. When the prefect enters the doors of the church, Lawrence points to the ragged company and says, "There are the church's riches, take them." Enraged at being mocked, the prefect orders Lawrence to be executed.

(Excerpt from Stanley Hauerwas, SCM Theological Commentary on the Bible: Matthew (London: SCM, 2006), 215.

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