Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 31, 2021

oil and water

At times the tangible surface of scripture upon which I gaze becomes altogether different things. Its literal substance may be paper or glass, but as I look down, what I see is almost always a window, a mirror, or a magnifying glass. When I first sat down to read scripture’s account of today in preparation for writing, it was quite clearly a window. A Dickens-like priceless pane into Simon the Leper’s home at supper time. I believe that meals were magnificent things in the earthly life of Jesus. They certainly weren’t all feasts, but I can’t imagine a single one that wasn’t meaningful in some way … and this particular one would be the rule, not the exception.

I know it is not written, but can you see with me Jesus arriving at Simon’s front door. Can you hear the voice of the Creator of the Universe who once used His words to divide light and darkness, earth and water, and form man from the dust of the ground, thank His host for opening his home to Him? I see His arms and His smile compete for which could open more widely in greeting each guest. I hear His intimate way of welcome that favored none but made each feel as though He had only come to see them. I see the smiles and gestures that are common to any occasion where friends gather to break bread together. And then, all at once, I see the woman approach the table, while Jesus is eating. A bit shocking, yes, because someone in her service role would not approach the table while people were eating. Perhaps she is bringing something to serve? No, that definitively doesn’t resemble food or drink.

In an instant the whole evening seems shattered as shards of clay fall to the floor and the essence of pure nard drips from between the fingers of one who should have remained invisible in her service, but now commanded the attention of all. Amid what must have seemed like chaos, Jesus humbly bowed His head as the woman smashed her precious jar of oil and poured it over her Lord.

Did the room fall silent as the anointing oil flowed? I’d like to believe the lavish gift commanded the moment, but the story suggests otherwise. And here is where the surface of scripture became something altogether different for me. What had once been a window, became a mirror with the sound of the seething shouts.

I think it’s safe to say we don’t like being startled. As I “advance” to greater age, I have become more and more like my grandfather who would quite literally come up out of his chair when startled. And many times, in being startled I can react harshly. Do you suppose that’s what happened here? The guests in the room being startled by an unexpected smash and just lashing out, not really for purpose, but because they were taken off guard? Quite regrettably, no. That is not at all what this was. This was a very clear problem of perspective. A failure in having eyes to see. Just as Peter took His eyes off Jesus and saw only the water, the guests took their eyes off Jesus and saw only the oil. How many times do we do the same?

Looking into this mirror of the here-sighted harsh rebukes, I heard the echo of a seemingly innocent “proverb” from my adolescence that suggested someone could be so heavenly minded to be of no earthly use. I thank the Spirit for revealing the outright lie at the heart of that innocent sounding quip. It is the high purpose of the enemy of God to divert our eyes and desires from Him. We must put on the full armor of God to fight those sometimes frontal but most times subtle attacks, to keep our eyes fixed on Him. I love what C.S. Lewis has to say in Mere Christianity:

“… a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

“Leave her alone,” Jesus answers, before naming the invaluable thing the unnamed woman has done for Him. I guarantee that most gathered completely missed His full meaning, but He shut down their rebukes to call attention to the one who had “done what she could.” High praise from the High King of Heaven, but not meant to elevate anyone above His purpose. A window and a mirror have turned our eyes upon Jesus. May we continue to look past the oil and the water of our everyday and keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him.

For the second time in as many days, Jesus made a point to draw attention to one who gave all they had. Two days are all that’s left before He gives all He had for us. Although this is the time during this week when I most want to slow down to delay, or wish there could have been another way, we will continue walking at the Master’s pace to and through it all.

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Responses

  1. Deceptive leaders, a leper, an insignificant woman, some bickering friends, the poor and a betrayer…….probably not the “agenda” that we would have put together for this final Wednesday of Jesus earthy life. Time is too short and too precious to……….

    Thanks again Father and mark for inviting us into the unseen, eternal and supernatural of today’s seen, temporary and natural agenda.


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