For the last few days I’ve listened to Scot’s messages given at Briercrest’s Serve 2009 conference. These talks show Scot’s passion for Jesus, the gospel and twenty-something’s. I share those three passions. Claypot consists of mainly twenty- and thirty year olds and we’re trying to figure out what Jesus and the gospel means for our context in Johannesburg. In these talks Scot defines the robust gospel as,
The gospel is the work of the Triune God, Father Son and Spirit, to restore cracked ikons to union with God and communion with others through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Spirit for the good of others and the world. [you can also read his 8 marks of a robust gospel here]
Last night as Lollie and I prepared for bed we read through Jesus’ Wednesday and specifically the incident where a woman anointed his feet. That passage shocked me to such an extent that I found it difficult to fall asleep. One of the reasons are Jesus’ statement in verse 9 …
I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
Jesus, in this passage, claims that a preaching of the gospel will include this women and her scandalous devotion. Why, I wondered? Might it be that in this passage we see a person’s trajectory of engagement with the gospel life? Or as my friend Trevor Hudson states, a picture of “generous compassion”.
I find Jesus’ linkage of the gospel preached with this woman’s deeds deeply challenging. What if the trajectory of a gospel life could be viewed as:
A waste, “Why this waste …(v4)” Many people who devote themselves to the teachings of Jesus and choose ways different than that of capitalistic consumption are viewed as wasting their lives. A gospel life can be viewed as a waste.
More than a year’s wage, (NIV, v5), it is a life with a deep sense of voluntary sacrifice. I worked out that in our South African economy she would have given at least (300 X R100 = R30 000), and that is the bread-line earning figure in SA. The picture here is thus one of extravagant love, a “total abandonment to God”(Dallas Willard). The gospel, rightly apprehended will be followed with gusto and full-out sacrifice. This wasteful-sacrifice is described by Jesus as “a beautiful thing to me”(v6), a gospel life is a commitment of everything.
She did what she could (v8), a gospel life moves beyond theorizing and postulating what couldn’t be done and moves into the realm of possibilities and what can be done. In this sense the gospel becomes the responsible thing to do (response = ability to respond). The gospel life is about what could be done.
The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me, a gospel life will continue with Jesus’ (pre)occupation with the poor and the marginalized. Whatever we do to the poor now, and we can do a lot – “if we want”, we do to Jesus (cf.Matthew 25). This text has been maimed by so many, read about its context here.
This woman shows what happens when someone grasps the gospel … it becomes a beautiful fragrance to God that implicitly also reaches out to others – and that is pretty robust!
Why do you think this woman's actions are so central in the gospels?