Kate Stacey’s Reflection
The gospel reading where a woman anoints Jesus with oil, defying a plethora of codes, [Mark 14:1-11] came on Monday 5 October.
I treasure this beautiful story of a brave woman, anointing Jesus, and recognise the proximity of Jesus receiving this ministry from her, and Judas going to the chief priests. Having listened at the conference to stories of suffering and exclusion from some women in ministry, then reading this passage afresh I was struck by the cost to Jesus of including and affirming women.
The woman in the passage comes into the place of men, where she is not welcome. She comes bringing with her the riches that she possesses, and, against all odds, pours out those riches in the service of Christ, to the scandal of the men present. For these men, who up until this point had not had to consider what women might bring to their space, suddenly feelings of uncertainty and insecurity arise.
I imagine this would be, for her, a little like walking into the lion’s den, cutting across all manner of social norms and accepted ways of being and behaving, clutching her most precious possession, a jar of ointment that would have cost her approximately what she would have earned in a year. There is nothing else she can do, because that is where she has to go to serve her Lord, and she is compelled to take with her the very best she has. But then, she finds she is not alone. Jesus, recognising her value and that of what she brings, does not stand at the side, waiting for her to take all the risks to come to him. He goes and meets her at the centre of the lion’s den. He affirms what this woman has bought, the prophetic and audacious ministry that she has provided that was lacking when she was not there.
It seems here that this risk that Jesus took, meeting her, responding to her ministry, is what finally pushes Judas over the edge. He cannot believe that someone who knows the heart of God would accept what this woman offers. This encounter with this woman is more than Judas can take – he goes to betray Jesus. In this way, Mark suggests that Jesus’ acceptance of her ministry leads directly to his death.
Of course, this does not make the experiences of some women in the church today, still walking into lion’s dens for the sake of Christ, acceptable. However, it does assure us that as we take these risks, we do so standing in a long tradition of risk takers, in memory of her, and in solidarity with Christ.