Selling The Jar Of Oil 021812
Reading the jar of oil story in Matthew today, I’m always confused by why the oil wasn’t sold and the money given to the poor. Certainly it would be good to honor Jesus, if his body and flesh were here, but why didn’t Jesus request the oil be sold and the money given to the poor instead of just pouring it on his head?
If we apply this as a metaphor (which is our only choice—the woman with the alabaster jar is not here now) then this story might mean that Jesus is saying ‘you could have sold the oil at any time and helped the poor, but you choose to prepare me for death instead’. Jesus was also one of those poor, and maybe using the oil on his head was giving it to the poor.
I also _think_ we sometimes hear the absolutely clear voice of Jesus as a human being only, and not as the voice of God. Jesus remained human. And here Jesus speaks with compassion about the woman who loved him enough to use the precious oil on his head to prepare him for death. To know that an ordinary woman loved him and wished to bless him and prepare for his death moved him deeply, as it might any of us.
Some have said we should not be concerned so much by the poor, and that no matter what we do Jesus has ‘guaranteed’ they will be with us always. But I hope we are careful using Jesus’ words this way. It may be blasphemous to believe Jesus said we should not be so concerned with the poor because of this, when Jesus had spent his entire ministry caring for the poor, and he came from a religion that for thousands of years had spoken for the poor.
I’m left with only one alternative: to care for the poor as Jesus said, and to honor Jesus in his (human) death.
Pray for the poor and pray for peace,
Peace Mennonite Church keeps a prayer list for those in need. If you need prayer, or want to e-mail our pastor, e-mail billd @ peacemennonitechurch.net (Take out the extra spaces to use this e-mail—the spaces confuse spam generators).
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We are praying as a church, and attempting to follow the centuries’ old tradition of praying with other Christians three times a day. We are following the prayer liturgy at www.commonprayer.net
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1I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
2O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
3O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.
5For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
6As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
7By your favor, O Lord, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
8To you, O Lord, I cried, and to the Lord I made supplication:
9“What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me! O Lord, be my helper!”
11You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
21But if he is poor and cannot afford so much, he shall take one male lamb for a guilt offering to be elevated, to make atonement on his behalf, and one-tenth of an ephah of choice flour mixed with oil for a grain offering and a log of oil; 22also two turtledoves or two pigeons, such as he can afford, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. 23On the eighth day he shall bring them for his cleansing to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, before the Lord; 24and the priest shall take the lamb of the guilt offering and the log of oil, and the priest shall raise them as an elevation offering before the Lord. 25The priest shall slaughter the lamb of the guilt offering and shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the big toe of the right foot. 26The priest shall pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand, 27and shall sprinkle with his right finger some of the oil that is in his left hand seven times before the Lord. 28The priest shall put some of the oil that is in his hand on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot, where the blood of the guilt offering was placed. 29The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed, to make atonement on his behalf before the Lord. 30And he shall offer, of the turtledoves or pigeons such as he can afford, 31one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, along with a grain offering; and the priest shall make atonement before the Lord on behalf of the one being cleansed. 32This is the ritual for the one who has a leprous disease, who cannot afford the offerings for his cleansing.
6Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 8But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste? 9For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” 10But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. 11For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. 13Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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