Mark 14.1-9Most of the attention in this text has swirled around Jesus's enigmatic phrase, "the poor you will always have with you." But that's not what grabbed me the other day. What grabbed me was this phrase:
Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”
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.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
"She has done a beautiful thing..."As best I can tell, this is the only time in the NT where the word "beautiful" is used to describe an action or behavior. The doing of a beautiful thing.
More and more, I've come to describe my faith in similar terms, in aesthetic terms. Some things in the world--big global things and small things I notice during the day--I find beautiful. Other things I find ugly. And more, I try to live in a beautiful way. And in a way that has artistic integrity. And behind all these judgments is an aesthetic that is distinctively Christian.
What is faith? I'm often not sure. But I think a part of faith looks a lot like what the woman at Bethany does.
Faith is going places and doing beautiful things to anoint the Crucified One as Lord.