Davalynn Spencer @davalynnspencer
Bethany, a village near Jerusalem
Six days before Passover
Asher pulled his cloak tighter, wishing he’d worn his heavier wool garment this evening. The short walk to his neighbor’s house warmed him some, but the air nipped around his ears.
Much remained to be done before Passover. It seemed an odd time to send for guests, but his neighbor insisted, and it would be good to share a meal and relax. The teacher would be there with his associates.
As expected, Asher found the table laden with dates and olives, honey, nuts, and figs, bread, and cheese. A fragrant wine filled each cup, and expectation shivered in the flames of the lamps. The teacher had visited often and the last time, had created quite a stir. Asher shifted on his cushion at the low table, wondering what the evening might yet bring.
He reclined near the guest of honor at the head of the table, their host at the opposite end. One sister served, as expected, but the other sister—well, one never knew what she might do, and the sharp crack of pottery against a table leg confirmed Asher’s suspicions.
There she was, kneeling near the teacher. Or prophet. Some called him a king, and Asher dare not laugh at their earnest beliefs. Yet, look at this bunch. An itinerate Galilean and his motley followers. Such a mix—from wealthy tax collector to smelly fishermen.
Soon the pungent odor of sweet nard rose among them, no doubt the most expensive thing in this home. Asher shook his head, surprised there was any left at all after what happened the last time he was there.
Perfume thickened the air, and Asher leaned back to see the reason. The woman poured the nard on the teacher’s feet. If that were not enough to unsettle everyone there, she uncovered her hair in their presence and rubbed the oil into his feet with it, cradling them in her hands as if they were holy.
Asher shivered, and the room stilled like a tomb—an unwelcome metaphor—and he regretted not choosing his heavier cloak.
What in God’s holy name had come upon this woman?
Never had he witnessed such a thing. A priest, prophet, or king was anointed, but on the head, never the feet. And this man was certainly no king. This woman’s behavior was most unusual.
Whispers broke out around the table, and one man raised his voice. “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? That is a year’s wages poured out!”
Asher wondered the same.
“Leave her alone.”
At the teacher’s rebuke, the accuser drew back and sank into himself. Asher cast his gaze to a plate of olives. Others retreated into silence.
“She saved the perfume for the day of my burial,” the honored one said, looking with deepest regard into the woman’s eyes.
Burial, indeed. Asher drew his cloak tighter as unbidden memory played out the recent scene of his neighbor lying in a nearby tomb, bound in burial cloths—until this man spoke his name and commanded he come out.
Commanded! How absurd. Yet—Asher had been there.
This prophet/teacher had predicted his own death, but at Passover? Many at the table planned to leave tomorrow and go to Jerusalem. Some believed this man was the Coming One, Messiah, and expected him to do anything but die. Surely he would ride into the city during the festival and set everyone free from Roman oppression.
Asher glanced around the table. Who among them could free the Jews from anything?
The sweet odor had seeped into his cloak and tunic. Others across the table were discovering the same. It hung heavy in the air of this closed room, and Asher wondered why they hadn’t eaten outside.
What could have driven this woman to such extravagance and pushed her into impropriety?
Again memory stirred. Yes, the tomb incident. That must be it. Her brother had died, and she and her sister wept for days. Indeed four days. Yet this one at the table with anointed feet called him back to life. Asher knew it to be true though the High Priest and his officials scoffed and called it trickery.
But Asher had helped others push the stone from the opening. He had taken the first cold, decaying breath of the tomb across his face. All his senses screamed that his neighbor was dead, and yet …
He glanced across the table, finding tears in his friend’s eyes as he considered the anointed one. This whole affair was most strange indeed.
Adoration – that must be it. Incomprehensible gratitude for the gift of life.
After the meal, some of the other guests stirred to leave. But there was no escaping the fragrance that lingered. It would cling to each of them tonight and invade their homes as well as their thoughts. For this woman’s sacrifice had enveloped everyone and bathed them all with the perfume of her offering, even Asher.
How would he ever forget?
A retelling of John 12:1-11How would he ever forget? Click To Tweet
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