She Did What She Could

My Dallas bestie, who also happens to be my-sister-law, had her gender reveal party a few months ago for her first baby.

Before the big reveal I was daily obsessing over the fact that somewhere in her house was a sheet of paper that indicated the gender, and I couldn't handle it. The agony!!! I NEEDED to know the gender because I was planning an epic make-Martha-Stewart-emote, make-Camille-Styles-comment, make-Glitter-Guide-jealous, kind of party. What’s that you say? Real Simple wants rights to the food photos? Eat your heart out DIYers. Here's how it all turned out.

Cake: @layeredbakeshop, Armstrong Manifesto: @designroots, Decor: yours truly

No one pulls off an epic shower of this proportion without a little crazy coming out and in this case it was my crazy. Leading up to the shower I was asking folks to: "Pray for us. No, pray for the other hostesses. I’m fine. I’m on a mission."

Today we are going to peek into an awkward moment at a dinner party to honor Jesus during his last week on earth before his death and resurrection.

"Two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the chief priests and the experts in the law were trying to find a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. For they said, 'Not during the feast, so there won’t be a riot among the people.' Now while Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of costly aromatic oil from pure nard. After breaking open the jar, she poured it on his head. But some who were present indignantly said to one another, 'Why this waste of expensive ointment?  It could have been sold for more than three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor!' So they spoke angrily to her. But Jesus said, 'Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a good service for me. For you will always have the poor with you, and you can do good for them whenever you want. But you will not always have me! She did what she could. She anointed my body beforehand for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.' Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus into their hands." Mark 14:1-10 (NET)

"So they prepared a dinner for Jesus there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus was among those present at the table with him. Then Mary took three quarters of a pound of expensive aromatic oil from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus. She then wiped his feet dry with her hair. (Now the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.) But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was going to betray him) said, 'Why wasn’t this oil sold for three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor?' (Now Judas said this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief. As keeper of the money box, he used to steal what was put into it.) So Jesus said, 'Leave her alone. She has kept it for the day of my burial. For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me!'" John 12:2-8 (NET)

This party was just two days before the Passover. So, that's important to keep in mind while we read, but check the guest list for Simon the Leper’s party. There were definitely some clashing personalities. 

  • Jesus, who is the final Unleavened Bread. All Jews understood that leaven symbolized sin and their old life as slaves in Egypt. For 1,500 years Jews had been practicing the feast of unleavened bread, and now just two days before the feast and Jesus’ crucifixion, He is enjoying a dinner with His friends and being anointed for His burial. 

  • The disciples, who proved once again that they just don’t get it. (Something I can relate to often.) They’re angry about Mary’s wasted treasure and the missed opportunity to help the poor. All along they are missing that they are the poor. They are spiritually poor. All disciples of Jesus should be pouring out their greatest treasures to God like Mary. 

  • Martha, who served the meal that night, gets a bad rap for being a doer in a different story. But this is a beautiful picture of her using her gift to honor her God.

  • Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. People, he was dead. Then Jesus made him alive. Think about sitting next to Lazarus at a dinner party. I wouldn’t be able to stop staring. 

  • Simon the leper, whom Jesus had healed from leprosy. He’s the party host?!?! We could write a whole bible study on the statement this makes in an honor/shame culture for someone who had been considered an unclean outsider to be the host.

  • Judas, who speaks up on behalf of all the angry disciples to rebuke Mary harshly. He’s a jerk, and he is put in stark contrast to Mary. 

  • Mary, who is always at Jesus’ feet, learning, soaking in his presence, and pouring out her valuables. Her wasteful act was just the opposite according to Jesus. It was the most appropriate response to her Messiah. She honored her Savior with an extravagant act of love as anointing a guest's head was a common way to honor someone at a party like this. Mary appears three times in the Gospels, and each time we find her at Jesus' feet.

According to  Dr. Thomas L. Constable :

  • "The high value of her perfume and its expensive container may suggest that this was an heirloom passed from one generation to another."
  • "Customarily Jews gave gifts to the poor the evening of Passover. Mary’s gift to Jesus was worth a year’s wages. The disciples could see no reason for this “waste” because they did not understand that Jesus’ death was imminent. Their concern for the poor contrasts with her concern for Jesus."

I noticed a great contrast between Judas and Mary.

  • Mary is a woman. Judas is a man.
  • Mary came to Jesus that night to anoint him with honor. Judas left and went to betray Jesus.
  • Mary gave something extremely valuable to Jesus. Judas took a small amount of money to betray Jesus.
  • Mary was generous. Judas became angry.
  • Mary’s act was beautiful. Judas’ act was ugly.
  • Mary was defended by Jesus. Judas was reprimanded by Jesus.

And what exactly did Jesus say in Mary's defense? "She did what she could. She anointed my body beforehand for burial." She did what she could. Truth bomb.

This reading brought me to my knees today…

God, I’m scared I’m more like Judas and the disciples than Mary. I’ve seen disciples of Jesus around me do extravagant things for you, and I’m not always the first to commend their generosity, passion, zeal, commitment, sacrifice, or surrender. I’m usually sizing up how their gift compares to my own, leaving me feeling defeated in the comparison trap. On occasion, a select few people doing things I designate as “sold out” make me frustrated. I resent their godliness because it competes with my own. How many times have I used my seminary education to size up a Jesus follower’s correctness only to miss their extravagant acts of love for You and miss the opportunity to emulate their generosity? God, forgive me. I want to be like Mary. I want You to say of me, “Kat did what she could.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, change me into a disciple who loves You like Mary. 

In fact, move over Mary...