The Woman with the Jar of Nard

For Holy Week a series of meditations written as if by some of the characters who would have been involved in the story even if not named.
Secondly, the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment (Some parts of this may not be an easy read – for which I make no apology).

Reading Mark 14: 3 – 8
3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5  And they rebuked her harshly.
6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could.

When I was a little girl, and that was not recently, I remember the Rabbi talking to a big group of us kids. He was a nice kind man and I enjoyed his talks, but this one in particular I remember. He was talking about our emotions and what colour were they?
Anger? Easy, Crimson red.
Excitement? Yellow, Don’t ask me why though.
Fear? Black.
Happiness? Sky blue.
Love? That seemed to stump us all so he broke it down;
Love of your friends? Green – playing in the sheep folds.
Love of our town? Orange from the lovely sunsets and dawns.
Love of your Mum and Dad? Blood red, blue and black.
A father, everyone told me, loves their children so the colour of his love must be black and blue because that was the colour my face and body turned the morning after and red from the blood that poured out from my mouth nose and the cuts about my person. But he loved me so the hidings I got must have been a sign of love, No? Husbands love their wives Yes? And he knocked my Mum about even more than he did me and she showed the colours of love too; Black Blue and Red.
I never thought this strange; some of my friends occasionally had black eyes or cut lips so obviously their Dads loved them too. Only as I grew older did I come to realize their cuts and bruises were due to fighting other kids or getting into scrapes when playing. Growing older, I soon discovered, was not a good thing to do, because as I grew I became more than something to be hit.
I had thought there could be nothing worse than the beatings, how wrong I was. Every time it happened it hurt like no pain I had ever felt before, I prayed for it to be over or for me to die – and I didn’t really care which. Mum would come to me and cradle me in her arms, she crying almost more than I was.
“Why does he do that? Mum”
“Because he’s a man I suppose”
“Are all men like that then?”
“I suppose they must be”
“Why don’t we leave?”
“And go where? Do what? No we do whatever we must do to survive,that is what is important – Surviving”
She was right, that is what the Rabbi told us the ancients did, they did what they had to do to survive slavery in Egypt, exile in Babylon.  The women who did what they had to do to survive like Esther, Rahab, Rebecca, Sarah`and the others.
She then showed me something I never knew about. From a tiny ledge right at the back of where she kept the food she brought down a small jar. She handed it to me “When things get really bad I take this out and take off the top” she handed me the jar and I took off the top. Oh Oh what a glorious smell came from the jar. “Be careful with it, it’s very very expensive, I can only scrape enough pennies together now and again to get the smallest amount they sell. But when I can, I do, and keep it here. Now you are a woman and know what we suffer you can share it too”.
And share it I did over the next few months more and more times and more and more regularly. I began to notice that every time he came to me, he first of all knocked Mum senseless. So one night after he had hauled himself back to their bed and fallen asleep I got up got dressed got the jar from its hidey hole filled one of the small bottles from Mum’s big jar put it in my small roll of clothes and left.
Whatever was out there in the world was not as bad as what I was leaving behind.
I came to Jerusalem, met a man who was kind and smiled at me, who reminded me of that old Rabbi, took me to his home, fed me, got me new clothes, made sure I got bathed. Not all men were like my Dad; there were nice men in the world who cared for you, who made you feel special and nice.
Until he did treat me like he was my dad.
Then a couple of nights later he invited round some of his friends and threatened me unless I “entertained” them. I saw some of them pay him money. The fine clothes became dirty, the food became less and then when I asked if I could go to the market and buy some new clothes the beatings started.
Mum was right all men are the same; Out for what they can get.
As a woman I knew my place, with the dogs. I knew my worth, less than nothing.
Early one morning I left his house, but what could I do? I tried begging but no one gave me anything, then a man offered me money to go with him. Why not? I had been with so many for nothing it was about time I at least got something out of it.
It soon became a good way of making money. Trade was brisk. Some men were kind and even kissed me goodbye when they left, most just went without a word, and a few would give me a parting fist in the face, but what did I care? Of course I was spat on in the street by other women and some men, even ones I had been with the night before, would push me into the gutter.
But I could afford to buy Nard now. Regularly. It was my survival.  If I could just smell it I knew I was alive, I was surviving. Women could spit at me,, men could shun me even hit me, but that and they didn’t matter. I had my jar of Nard and I was alive I had survived another day.
The other day I stood at my usual place, looking at the men, after a while you can tell who the customers might be, so you can hold the gaze until they start to haggle the price, or you look away quickly before the others look at you as if you are dirt and hold on to their wives as if I might infect them with something. This is Passover week and trade is good, more than enough to go round even for the outsiders who come in to make a quick buck or two. I had heard a man was causing trouble, he had come in on a donkey the other day with a big crowd in tow.  Scared the life out of the Romans, and even some of my regular customers from the Temple didn’t come round that night .
I saw him yesterday morning in the market place. Some of those Pharisees were asking him stupid questions about taxes;! he sent them packing. He walked away and came towards my pitch ‘Aha, custom!’ thinks I, but no, he just stops and looks at me. I did my quick check of his eyes, hatred or purchase?
It was neither.  It was a look I had never seen before and he certainly did not hate me, he did not despise me, he did not ignore me. He looked at me as if I was, well, me.  Me? Worth looking at? Worth smiling at? Worth more than the cost of a go at my body. It was look of … a look of something I had no idea what it was… it was a look of acceptance… a look that said he would not judge me for what I am… was that a look of love? Is that what love is? Not a belting till you are black and blue and bleeding, but a look that says you are a person, a special, proper person?
Please Rabbi ask me again what colour love is? I know, I know now its deep deep brown, for that was the colour of his eyes as they said ‘I care not who or what you are, I love you’.
And I love him.  We’ve never spoken, never touched but I know I love him, because now I know what love is.
That is why I am here outside his friends’ house.  I have nothing to bring him, I have no way of showing how much I love except this;
I have my jar of Nard, and I noticed when he went in they did not offer him water to wash the dust of the road off him, so

I will go in
I will go to where he is laying
I will take my jar of Nard and open it
I will pour it all over him
I will anoint him as my master my ruler my man my love
I will show him how much I love him.

Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, when words were not enough you showed your love by stretching out your arms to embrace the cross of our disgrace.  May we be worthy of your love, may we find ways of showing our love to you, recklessly, and without counting the cost, just you show yours for us.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,