This blog is following the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem. The whole series which started on 01/01/ 2015 can be accessed from my archives. The headlines are reminders of the world we live in.
GENESIS 31 from verse 33
Lavan came into Yaakov’s tent and into Lea’s tent and into the tent of the two maids, but he did not find his stolen terafim gods;
Then he went out of Lea’s tent and came into Rahel’s tent.
Now Rahel had taken the terafim gods and had put them in the saddle-basket of the camels and had sat down upon them.
Lavan felt all round the tent but he did not find anything.
She said to her father:
Do not let upset be in my lord’s eyes that I am not able to stand in your presence
for the manner of women is upon me.
So he searched but did not find the terafim gods.
And Yaakov became upset and took up quarrel with Lavan,
Yaakov spoke up, saying to Lavan:
What is my offence, what is my sin,
that you have dashed hotly after me,
that you have felt all through my wares?
What have you found from all your household wares?
Set it here in front of your brothers and my brothers
that they may decide between us two.
It is twenty years that I have been under you.
Your ewes and your she-goats have never miscarried,
the rams from your flock I have never eaten
none torn-by-beasts have I ever brought you –
I would make good the loss
at my hand you would seek it,
stolen by day or by night.
Thus I was:
by day, parching heat consumed me, and cold by night
and sleep eluded my eyes.
It is twenty years for me now in your house;
I have served you fourteen years for your daughters and six for your animals,
yet you have changed my wages ten times ver.
Had not the God of my father,
the God of Avraham and the Terror of Yitzhak,
been there for me,
indeed you would have sent me off empty-handed!
But God has seen my being afflicted and the toil of my hands
and yesterday night he decided.
Lavan gave answer, he said to Yaakov:
the daughters are my daughters
the children aremy children
the animals are my animals-
all that you see, it is mine!
But to my daughters-what can I do to them today or to their children they have borne?
So now come,
Let us cut a covenant, you and I
and let something here serve as a witness between me and you.
The rough comedy of the preceding passage continues here. Lavan humiliates himself by searching for his stolen household gods. Rahel uses her taboo femininity to conceal them. Yaakov takes the chance to accuse his uncle and justify his behaviour. Lavan laconically asserts the right of the clan chief: everything in the clan is ultimately his. But in the end, all this is posturing, except Yaakov’s gambler’s trust that God’s is the right stable to bet on. The words he uses to articulate this would have reminded the original audience of the God of the Exodus who also saw the affliction of his people and their toil. The audience is given the impression that in spite of the inequality in power, Yaakov’s group are likely to survive Lavan’s threat, with God’s guidance.
Those who have been following the storytellers development of Yaakov’s character, will see that although the content of his speech against Lavan is largely bare-faced bluster which ignores his trick with Lavan’s sheep, it shows that he can find his voice and his courage. We know he’ll need it when he faces his brother Esav. Through his cunning and his suffering Yaakov becomes more able to handle God’s blessing.
Now the passover and the feast of unleavened bread was after two days. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might seize him by subtlety and kill him.
2 For they said, Not during the feast, lest perhaps there be a tumult of the people.
3 And when he was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he lay at table, there came a woman having an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly; and having broken the alabaster flask, she poured it out upon his head.
4 And there were some indignant in themselves, and saying, Why has this waste been made of the ointment?
5 for this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor. And they spoke very angrily at her.
6 But Jesus said, Let her alone; why do you trouble her? she has done a good thing for me;
7 for you have the poor always with you, and whenever you want you can do them good; but me, you will not have always.
8 What she could, she has done. She has beforehand anointed my body for the burial.
Mark is always showing his mastery as a storyteller but it is particularly evident in his narrative of Jesus arrest and death. Here for example he first depicts the religious powers plotting Jesus’ death and then for contrast, a village woman in the house of a cured leper, anointing Jesus with oil. Mark does not explicitly mention the link between anointing and the Messiah (=anointed one) but it would have been evident to Jesus, his disciples and the woman. So here, in secret, below the very noses of the powers, Jesus is anointed as king. But anointed by a woman? That would certainly indicate a kingship that would disrupt the status quo in Israel. So it’s not surprising that her gesture of faith is immediately criticised by the bystanders and perhaps by Jesus’ male disciples.
( I’ve noted that it’s often when an expensive and beautiful gift has been given to the church that we hear about our duty to the poor from people not otherwise known for their social conscience.)
Jesus deals with the matter gently, interpreting her gesture as primarily one of love for someone she knows is facing death. She has broken open the riches of her heart as well as her jar of oil, as if she was already mourning him and anointing his dead body.Only when he is crucified can he truly be anointed as king. Mark allows the reader to see this woman as Mother Israel, breaking open the rich store of her tradition of faith, to anoint the crucified Jesus as her true king.
Beneath the gaze of the powerful, too low for them to see, this tender coronation takes place. That’s why Jesus celebrates her faith and love, and allocates her a special place in the announcement of his glad tidings. Here, again, in this blog, the prophecy of Jesus comes true. I’ve written these words, “in remembrance of her.”