HOLY WEEK: RECOLLECTION
[These remaining Holy Week devotions will be a recollection of the last days that Jesus experienced and endured. Merriam Webster defines recollection as “the action or power of recalling to mind; something recalled to the mind.” But a second definition struck me: “tranquility of mind; religious contemplation.” May our recollection of the life and love of Jesus as shown in his final days bring us a deeper and humbler appreciation, a quiet and contemplative spirit, and most of all, the peace and tranquility in knowing that, through it all, Jesus has overcome the world.]
Mark 14:3-11 (NRSV)
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “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.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
This story is retold in Matthew 26, but in John 12, the story is changed a bit. In John’s story, Jesus is at the home of Lazarus, and the woman who anoints him is Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha. Often times when we retell or revisit a memory, the story evolves and changes. We may have learned additional information since the first telling. We may see certain moments with greater clarity and importance as part of a bigger story. We may gain a new perspective as time passes and we mature. To revisit a moment or memory is to reenter that moment, and to reconsider, reexamine, reevaluate, or rethink the experience. Today our word is revisit.
When we read the Holy Week stories in our Bible, we revisit the events of that week through the words of the Gospel writers. The stories were actually written some years after these days had passed. Had we lived in Jesus’ time, we would not have known what was happening behind the scenes with the religious leaders, understood why certain decisions or actions were taken, or realized where Jesus’ life was leading. We may find it easy to be critical of people who made terrible judgments and decisions about Jesus back then. But these people simply didn’t have all of the information- or the rest of the story that we have.
In this passage, just before the Passover, the woman (or Mary) intended to comfort and bless Jesus with her act of adoration. Had she anticipated the anger that would result from using expensive nard to anoint Jesus, she may have decided against doing this. The anointing even seemed to be the final straw for Judas, who then began planning to betray Jesus. She also upset some of the rest of the disciples, and perhaps Jesus’ words of his burial confused and dismayed them, too.
Could her generous act have contributed to the betrayal by Judas? If she had known where the next few days would take them all, could she have possibly changed the outcome? I am sure many of Jesus’ enthusiastic followers wondered what they had done wrong, or what they could have done differently, in those last confusing and frightening days when their plans began drastically falling apart.
But now when we revisit this woman’s story, we see how it was a necessary piece of the puzzle. There was more to her simple act of anointing than Judas or the others realized. Jesus used her act of love and adoration to foretell what was to come, to show that he was being prepared for his burial. He tried to share this deeper meaning with his disciples. In fact, he even said that what she had done would always be remembered as part of the good news story!
The woman did one simple act of love with good intentions. In the context of the rest of the story, the act became a terrible factor in Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. In the context of the rest of Jesus’ story, the act became a significant gesture of love, as well as a powerful symbol for Jesus to show the disciples what was to come.
When we revisit the stories of our lives, we may remember times when our good intentions did not result in good outcomes. Or we may recall times that didn’t make sense. We made decisions based solely on the information we had at that time, unable to see where they would lead. But if we allow Jesus to revisit these stories with us, retelling them from his perspective, showing us the deeper meaning, we may see how they fit as a necessary piece of our puzzle. It is all in the revisiting, isn’t it?
As we revisit these last dark days of your earthly life, please guide our understanding and comprehension, so that we may truly see your story the way you would want us to see it. Retell your story to us in such a way that we deepen in love and grow as your followers. And when we revisit our own stories, help us to hear your retelling of them, that we may find their significance and meaning. Help us to revisit and retell our story- as part of your true story- with the world. Amen.