The Woman Who Came to Dinner
All four Gospels tell the story of a woman who enters the house where Jesus is a dinner guest and anoints him with precious oil. But there are significant differences.
In Matthew and Mark, a woman anoints Jesus head with expensive oil. She is not identified as a sinner.
In Luke, :a sinful woman in the city: weeps upon Jesus feet, wipes them with her hair, kisses them, and anoints them with perfume.
In John, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus anoints the feet of Jesus with precious oil and dries them with her hair.
Many scholars believe that two different events gradually became intertwined in oral tradition: (1)While Jesus was at dinner, a sinful woman came to him, her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them with her hair. (2) While Jesus was at another dinner a woman, to express her love for him anointed his head with oil.
By the time the Gospels were written, each evangelist had a slightly different version that had mixed together in one story some details from these two separate events.
Then as the centuries unfolded, the sinful woman was mistakenly identified as Mary Magdalene: probably because of the statement in Luke that severe demons had been cast out of her. Although this was a standard way of speaking of someone cured of sickness, some mistook it for sinfulness.
Now when Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil and poured it on his head wile he was reclining at table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and said, Why this waste? It could have been sold for much and the money given to the poor. Mt. 26:6-9
This unnamed womans kind act toward Jesus sharply contrasts with the plot of the religious leaders to kill him.
In Matthew, her act is also in sharp contrast to the reactions of Jesus disciples who are annoyed at her largesse. Some have suggested that Matthew notes this because the community for whom he wrote had many people of means. He was directing a message to those who were overly concerned about money.
The traditional Lenten practice of almsgiving nudges us to lavish our largesse upon the poor. What would happen if I took a large bite out of a weeks paycheck and gave it to the poor? I cant do that every week, but then again this is Lent.
It wouldnt erase world poverty. But it would have a large effect upon me, and remind me that all creation including my possessions belongs to God.
Spend some quiet time with the Lord.