ShePonders: Another Anointing

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“Can we messiah one another–propelling each other into the larger salvation story of which we all have a part to play?”

“You have to quit your job.” All the others around the room that morning nodded their heads in agreement. A sober-minded brunette reached for pen and paper: “We can help you write the resignation letter now.” Among this group of trusted friends gathered to help me discern my current situation, it was all but settled–it was time to embrace Africa and let go of lesser things.

“I will cover the cost of your first year,” one said. Such a bold investment brought immediate gravity to the sunlit room that morning … and then I felt another take my hand and whisper, “I am coming with you.”  Within moments there were hands laid on us and prayers ascending; the room awash with tears and blessing. This was a holy moment that pushed me forward into my deeper purpose–and I needed my sisters more than I realized.

* * *

For many months she had been following the Rabbi. She had heard him tell many of his parables–some more than once. She had listened to his teachings on hillsides in Galilee and in homes like Martha’s. She had witnessed healings and walked so close behind him that dust would sometimes cover her garments. She had eyes that saw and ears that heard … and she knew where he was headed because he said so on more than one occasion and in more than one way.

So she saved coins here and there. She even found one in a corner–she had thought it long since lost! But not too long ago she took her small purse and purchased some ointment of nard. It was a small alabaster jar–all she could afford–but it was of the best quality. She had it by her bed where she could smell the fragrance like night-blooming jasmine.

There was a dinner party at Simon’s house in Bethany, a familiar occasion for the Rabbi and his disciples. But that night, as she left her house, she reached for the alabaster jar and carried it with her down the street to her neighbor’s home.

By the time she arrived, the Rabbi was already there. He was sitting at the table and laughing with Simon (once a leper) and some other friends. Other disciples were mingling about the room in spirited conversation while the house staff brought platters of food and began pouring the wine.

Now. Now was the time. She took a deep breath and felt the weight of the jar in her tiny hand. She walked toward him. She broke open the top of the jar and began to pour the ointment over his coarse hair … dark hair that reminded her of her own brother. But, unlike her brother, the Rabbi was destined for Jerusalem–for death and yet for victory, too. In her bones she knew him to be Messiah, though she hardly could conceive of what that really meant. She poured slowly … pondering these many things.

She was thinking of this when jolted by Peter’s sharp elbow and the angry words of Judas. The room was filled with noise. With shouting. With accusation. She felt confused … didn’t they all know what she was doing? Like Samuel and Elijah she was merely recognizing the Rabbi’s true calling.  She was affirming his destiny.

But they did not have eyes to see or ears to hear.

But the Rabbi knew. He felt the cool ointment dripping down his scalp and down his neck–and knew the fragrance immediately. She was preparing him. She was empowering him for what lay ahead. She was making visible his salvific purpose: a martyred messiah.

He pushed back Peter and the others pressing toward her; he chided Judas with one sharp look. Then he spoke: “She has anointed me.”

The woman sighed in deep relief as she realized the Rabbi had received her gift.

Like the prophets of old, the woman anointed Jesus and proclaimed his true identity. It was the woman who stood in the long prophetic tradition–not John the Baptist, who baptized with water; not Peter who attempted to announce Messiah but then misunderstood his agenda entirely. It was this woman who was the perceptive prophet. She messiahed Jesus.

She possessed the insight cultivated over months of patient watching, listening and pondering. She invested in the ointment of nard and made an intentional decision to take it with her on that cool night. She was inspired by the Spirit to anoint and therefore participate in the work of Jesus, giving momentum to his salvation agenda. One scholar notes that she empowered him, the disciple empowering the Rabbi. How stunning a reversal!

* * *

I have grown up with another concept of anointing, one that is more spontaneous and charismatic.  For many years I carried a green glass bottle of scented oil in my purse in case a moment arose where anointing was called for. Not too long ago I anointed the feet of some African leaders on Ugandan soil with olive oil.

It is good to bless one another with rich symbols. I recommend it.

But this is a story of another anointing. This woman, most likely a disciple of Jesus, observed him and was attentive to the meaning of his life. She knew there was a deeper purpose afoot. And she prepared for a prophetic moment when she would affirm and announce it. She would, unbeknownst to her, push him into passion week with her anointing. She pushed him in much the same ways my friends propelled me that sun-drenched morning. They messiahed me into my part in God’s salvation story of transformation in Africa.

This anointing involves more than scented oil in shapely vessels.

This anointing involves:

attentive observation,

intentional action and

bold participation

in the divine purpose of another.

This anointing pushes others toward their true call. We are invited to anoint each other toward the things that matter–for our sake, for their sake and for the sake of the world in need of transformation.

Can we messiah one another–propelling each other into the larger salvation story of which we all have a part to play?

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My dear SheLoves sisters and friends, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments:

  • Have you ever been messiahed?
  • Who has seen you in and participated in the divine purpose of your life?
  • Other thoughts?

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Click on the link above for an audio version of Kelley’s ShePonders: Another Anointing

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Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley is co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. She is also the author of Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World (Eerdmans).
Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley Nikondeha

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