Blessed Wastefulness: A Sermon for Holy Tuesday on St. Mark 14:1-9

Anointing of Jesus' feet icon


3And while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

This woman understood that Holy Week was not all palms and Hosannas, but would end with death and burial. So in her love for her Master, she gave the very best of what she had. She poured a very expensive bottle of pure nard over his head.

This is the very sort of “wastefulness” God loves. It is the response of faith, one that recognizes all things as His and seeks to give Him but His own. It is the sort of love that thinks nothing of itself, but only of pleasing the Beloved.

Judas spoke reasonably here> he gave an argument which many good Christians have used: the oil could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Of course that wasn’t Judas’ real motive, but even if it were, Jesus still praises her.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus said. “Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.”

This is a wastefulness of love, a joyful extravagance, which gives its best to Jesus. We have a right to “squander” our time, if you will, when it comes to listening to Jesus, just as Mary did when she sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His Word, though there was so much to do in the home. We have a right to “waste” our gifts on Him.

This gift He did not reject but accepted. Such gifts can also be given today. It is pleasing to God that we richly adorn our sanctuaries, chancels, and naves to reflect the beauty and reverence of being in God’s house, to remind us of His presence with us in this place. The finest materials were likewise used in the tabernacle and temple to serve as a reminder that this is no ordinary space, but sacred ground.

The poor we will always have with us, said Jesus. The love for Him must always ultimately be a love for those suffer in this world, for how can we love God, whom we have not seen, if we hate our neighbor, whom we have? Here to there is a place for this blessed “wastefulness” that gives without counting the cost and insuring that it is to our advantage to help.

Jesus accepted this woman’s anointing as a preparation for His burial. None of the others seemed to understand just how near it was; the disciples did not understand these things as first. But Jesus knew, so He set His face toward Jerusalem, for the time was near.

Today, we who follow Him know better than His first disciples did at that point. We know the whole story. Because of this, we do not find it so easy to cry out with the multitudes who met His entry with palm branches and shouts of joy. But we understand this woman who anointed Him—she who gave the best she had for Him, for Him who would give His best for her, His life for her and for us all… He, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you have been healed.”

 Soli Deo Gloria

+Rev. Eric Andersen
Based on a translation and adaptation of Bo Giertz’s sermon for Holy Monday by Fr. Eric R. Andrae (Gottesdienst:Passiontide and Easter 204, Vol 22, No. 1).
Tuesday of Holy Week: Blessed Wastefulness (St. Mark 14:1—9)


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