When he was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper as he lay back a woman came with an alabaster flask of costly pure nard ointment. Breaking the alabaster flask she poured it over his head. Some were indignant among themselves "Why has this waste of ointment occurred? This ointment could be sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the wretched." They scolded her.
But Jesus said "Let her be. Why make trouble for her? She did a good deed on me. The wretched you always have with you and whenever you want you can do good to them but me you don't always have. What she could she did. She was early to anoint my body for burial. Amen I tell you wherever the good news is declared in all the world what this woman did shall also be told as a memory of her."
- Mark's gospel
My leprousy had been visible to the naked eye. Her's was more subtle. But still she was deemed "unclean."
It took me by surprise when she walked into my house. I say "walked" but her approach was not fluid; no, more like a child with bread in her hand approaching a bird. Willing, but tentative.
The presence of a woman had always the power to unsettle me. But her? It was hard to tell where the alabaster flask ended and her alabaster hands began; a detail not lost on the men in the room. The air was heavily scented before the ointment ever spilled.
And him? He just sat there and let it happen. No one said a word. Even the wind outside stilled.
As she finished, their eyes met and she stepped back from his presence. The sound of her feet across the floor seemed to break the spell on the room and immediately their scolding began: That's a year's worth of wages! Spilled! Wasted! That could have been used for the wretched!
And him? There have been moments when I've witnessed a fierce-ness surface in the man from Galilee. This was one of those moments. He seemed to spring to attention, reclining no more.
Let her be!
But Lord, the ointment could...
Let her be!
He then said something about his burial. But I stopped listening momentarily because of what I saw. His eyes were filled with tears. Not tears spilling down his cheeks; no, tears pooled in the sockets, fierce, poised, as if called to attention.
What she could she did. What she could she did.
It was then I noticed her hands. Again. But now it was as if the alabaster had spilled from them. They had taken on the color of my hands, his hands, our hands. She was no longer an object in the room, or a dream, or unclean. His words had taken the wretchedness away and colored her with hues of flesh and bone. A captive freed. He had saved her. She was alive.
Such things I, Simon, say so that you may believe.
What he could he did. He always did.