AND WE CAN HELP THEM WHENEVER WE WANT!
BUT WHAT ABOUT JESUS? CAN WE (WILL WE?) HELP HIM, WHENEVER WE CAN?
In Mark 14:3 we discover Jesus “reclining at the table in the home of a man named Simon the Leper,” when in walks a woman with “an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard.” And before we know it, she’s broken the jar and poured the perfume onto Jesus’ head.
What? What is going on? Who is this woman? And who does she think she is that she can just walk into a “dinner party” and just pour out all of this perfume on Jesus’ head?
I mean, really, this woman has a lot of nerve, right?
And of course, there were those at the party who were quick to condemn her act. Who, exactly, “those folks” we aren’t told, but I would venture that those who agreed with this condemnation, may have included some of Jesus’ own disciples (and so many of us, if we were in attendance!).
Why? Because we, too, would have agreed with their rationale: That this “expensive perfume” (which was worth more than a year’s wages!) could have been sold and the money given to the poor.
Sounds reasonable? Right? I mean, who could argue with that thought process?
Well, let’s see how Jesus, himself, reacts to this “extravagant out-pouring of love and affection.” He immediately defends the woman and her actions (Mark 14:6), and then tells those in attendance why he is defending her and her actions.
Jesus seemingly agrees with those who were critical of her actions when he says, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” (Mark 14:7) He seems to be saying something like, “Hey folks, of course I agree with you, the poor do indeed need as much help as we can give them, and you are “free” to do this whenever you want.” (Notice also Jesus appears to be allowing us “the freedom” to choose just how much we will give, and when we will give.)
But when Jesus states to this crowd (and to us) that “we” will not always have him, he seems to be implying (and not too subtly) that his very life and teachings and example is one of such prime importance that no one should mistake who he is and what his mission is all about.
And guess what? It is this “least” woman (who might have been a woman of some “means” because of the value of her gift…or not) who is the one who comprehends the significance of the moment. This woman had the spiritual insight (a gift from God) to recognize that Jesus’ time on earth was coming to an end… and soon! And she chose (it was her choice) to show her love and appreciation for what Jesus was going to do for her (and everyone else!). And she didn’t care what anyone else thought. All she knew is that she wanted to offer this gift… before the time had passed.
And how does Jesus view her actions?
He says, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9)
But why is this? Why is what she has done “so important” that wherever the gospel is preached (an integral part of God’s plan) her actions “will also be told?”
I don’t want to pretend to fathom the depths of the meaning behind this story… so I won’t. But I will venture to observe that this woman saw something of primary importance when we are talking about God, the poor, and our relationship with them both. She saw that she ought to give “her all” (give what she had) to this Jesus because of his willingness to go the cross for her. And further, I’d like to think that somehow she “instinctively” seemed to know that without God’s forgiveness and love and care for herself and everyone, well then, all our giving and helping the poor will lack the very deep down, humble integrity that we can only possess if we are in right relationship with God. In other words, one ought to come before the other.
And is not this exactly what the God of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament teaches? Yes indeed, in fact, as most of us are quite aware—God’s whole law can be summed up in the two great commandments.
And how did Jesus respond when an expert in the law asked him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Matthew 22:36)
Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love you neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)
So we see that God has a desired “order” of how he wants us to live our lives. He simply wants us to love him first and foremost. Why? Because he’s our creator and he knows that life will not “work” (no matter how we hard we try!) the way he intended if we can’t accept how much he loves us and how much he’s done for us.
But if we can “accept” this—and give God his due—then we’ll be so overflowing with love and gratefulness towards our God that we ought not have “too much” problem with loving our neighbors as ourselves. After all, if we truly grasp what God has done for us, well then, we ought to want “the best” for our neighbor.
For when we truly realize how much God loves and forgives us, then hopefully, we will be happy to give “what we have to spare” (whether it’s a lot or a little!) to our neighbors…which include the poor. I mean, this kind of love is far “too good” to keep to ourselves.
And finally isn’t this what Jesus envisioned how we, who call ourselves his followers, would “put to use” his love for us? (See Matthew 25:31-40)
And this why he will say, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
And how about those who “claimed” to know him and have a relationship with him, but refused to help even a few of the “so many” who were lacking some of lifes’ most basic needs?” How will respond to them?
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45)
Which response would like to hear from Jesus?
Just remember, it’s your choice, and your life’s actions are telling your story…right now.
(And take care of someone who needs it. You’ll be glad you did!)