Faith Worth Remembering
by Katherine Britton
Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." - Matthew 26:10-13
The woman with the alabaster jar knew something that I don't fully grasp.
She knew she didn't belong with Jesus. She knew that he had every right to shun her, to see her life of sin, and turn away. Comparing Matthew's account with other gospels, she was probably Mary Magdalene, the fallen woman. Even by our cultural standards, her lifestyle barred her from polite company; in her day, her gender prevented her from coming too close to the honored guest. She had no right to enter that dinner, and she knew it. So why does this woman win such a place in Jesus' narrative?
I tried to unravel her story in one of my few stints as a short story author. Picture a woman entering a room full of men, all of whom notice her impertinence. Perhaps she second-guessed her intentions for a moment. But I bet that once her eyes settled on Jesus, she never looked away. Not this woman, Mary. I can't think of any other compelling reason for her to walk forward, break a jar that cost a year's salary, and pour it over the head and feet of Christ.
What did she know that today's Christians, me included, miss?
I think that answer lies in where she looked. She kept her eyes trained on Jesus, refusing to look at her own moral standing and flaws. It's not that she wasn't aware of them - that's the very reason she loved Jesus so much. But she didn't allow herself to dwell on the laws she had broken and the time she hadn't spent loving him. She was too caught up in his face to notice anything about herself.
When I approach God on Sunday mornings, I must admit that my heart drags its feet, coming with eyes downcast. What I consider most often are the ways I fail—how I didn't read my Bible enough or I wasn't patient or loving or whatever enough. And yet, my focus is still on… me.
The woman with the alabaster jar died to herself long before she entered that dining room. She had denied herself and decided to focus only on Jesus. Her self faded into the background as focused on delighting in her Lord. She was one of the first people to understand what it meant to take up the cross and follow Jesus. For that, Jesus promised that her story would be told "wherever this gospel is heard." That's faith worth remembering.
Intersecting Faith & Life: How hard is it to enjoy your best friend's company? Or do you focus on all the ways you could be a better friend but fail? When we're in the presence of people we love, the meeting becomes less about us and more about enjoying their company. How would our lives be transformed if we took that same approach to our faith? In 2016, I pray that we will remember the woman with the alabaster jar and follow her example. Let's train our eyes on the face of Jesus.
The Characters of Christmas is a podcast created to help you take a fresh look at the Christmas story by getting to know the minor characters that played a part in Jesus’ birth. It is the companion to Dan Darling's book "The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus."