Mark's mystery prophet priest

Published: Monday, 26 March 2018

This sermon was delivered by Keren McClelland on Palm/Passion Sunday 2018, and includes questions for group/personal reflection.

Mark 14: 1 - 11

Take a look at this video on privilege… ($100 race)

This one is about ethnic based  privilege that has been established in the college system in the USA…

What other privileges are not listed?

In the video line up…where would Jesus be? (unwed mother, rural, carpenter, male…) 

Where would the woman be? Would she even be in the race?

$100 doesn’t even matter.

The first thing for us to do is understand our privilege in the main games (ATAR, income, property, sport team) (where are you privileged?)


The second, and equally important thing, is not operating out of guilt as the expert for others less fortunate…but cultivating friendships with those who are different to us, especially those who don’t fit in the main game. Friendship means a reciprocal relationship where we value difference. (who are your friends who have less privilege than you but are richer in other ways than you? i.e. where are you poor?) 

Time and time again Jesus is meeting with others who don’t fit in, who don’t have a sense of belonging, whose gifts are not valued… 

He says everyone belongs, and there is meal after meal where he shares simple nutritious tasty food with unlikely people... but in doing that we see this Holy Week that Jesus threatens the establishment. 

The number of people following his lead is increasing to such an extent he needs to go.

When any organisation or structure is failing the easiest way out is to find a scape goat rather than address a problem owned by everyone. Have you seen this happen or been a victim of scapegoating? Can you think of a time when an organisation facing challenges owned the responsibility collectively without targeting any particular person?

Jesus sees it coming, he speaks explicitly about what travelling this path will cost him (Mark chapters 13/14), but he doesn’t blink, run away, draw back… he keeps doing what the Spirit leads him to, and this time in Bethany it’s at Simon’s house… 

Simon’s got leprosy, he is an untouchable, an outcast,

Jesus is not lecturing him but eating with him...

I wonder what food they are eating? And who is cooking?

What’s your favourite food? What aromatic spices or herbs do you love? 

The table is laid with some of my favourite collection of aromatics…

poached quinces with lemon, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla

fresh roasted and ground cumin, fresh sage, 

yuzu/citron tea, fresh cumquats

Fragrance has power to evoke memories and effect wellbeing. Frying butter and roasted hazelnuts reminds me of my grandmother. Citrus and Daphne are good for depression. Some smells, like cloves and cinnamon, remind us it’s Christmas season. Other aromas take us to a favourite place or remind us of a special person. Who has a keen sense of smell?

Anyone have anosmia? I would rather not have my hearing or sight than lose my sense of taste/smell.

This story has an intriguing fragrance…

Nard (spikenard). We are told its value is at least a year’s wages.

Who wants to come and smell some (and describe it to everyone)? (volunteers to describe it) (varying responses... complex with citrus, herbs, camphor/eucalyptus, medicinal, woody, smokey...)

Nard is associated with the anointing of significant persons (do a search for Egyptian tomb alabaster jar of nard!). 3500 years ago one of the most valuable fragrances found in Egypt came from the Himalayas! Essential oils were thought to be the "sweat of the gods". In the Iliad, in deep grief, Achilles puts nard on the body of his friend Patroclus. (See below in the references for further uses/benefits).

What was this woman thinking? 

Where did she work or live to have access to nard? 

Can you imagine the effect on a dinner party? Confusion? awe?

How about as Jesus shares a Passover meal a few days later and rides into Jerusalem? I’m guessing you would have smelt him.

When I bought the spikenard last week (1g cost $6) I chatted with the owner of the shop about using it in a diffuser. "Wait a minute, I'll just smell it again... no... I don't think so... that would clear the room!!"

On this first day of Holy Week, this Palm Sunday, 

I’m reminded of Paul’s writing about the Aroma of Christ who will clear the Way...

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.”

This story is an ultimate story about life and death and where we will find life. This story is also for everyone who doesn’t belong when everyone else seems to be in the "in" crowd.  This is for everyone who thinks they don’t have something to contribute that is valuable.

This intriguing woman doesn’t belong in the main game in town. She doesn’t even have a place at the starting line-up. Even over the centuries her character has been smeared and confused with other stories of a woman who sits at Jesus feet.

So what Mark does is revolutionary. With holy hands she pours oil on Jesus' head.

When everyone else betrays or deserts Jesus

she acts as prophet and priest.

She anoints, she blesses, Jesus Christ for this heart wrenching journey of this week ahead.

What was this woman thinking?

In your small group prayer time use the image of hands for inspiration.

This is the video Keren made of Jean's collections and handiwork 


Interesting background to Mark 14:1-11

Mark’s sandwich (the woman in the middle)

Tutankhamen's perfume:

Some possible benefits / uses of spikenard:

Women of the passion (the unnamed woman as prophet and priest)