Life-Giving Widow

The Freely-Given Life

On several occasionsI’ve reflected on the nameless woman who anoints Jesus in Mark 14. She is unique in that Jesus promises that her deed of burial-preparation / anointing will be told everywhere the gospel is proclaimed.

Why remember her?

It seems that she alone, of all the characters in the story, has held together “anointed one” with “the one who must die.”

Another word of approbation is given to a woman a couple chapters before. She, too, is nameless.

It is the widow who gives her own 2 cents.

Her presence here is double-edged, without a doubt. The scribes have just been accused of devouring widows houses. Enter the widow. Behold how she has put in her whole livelihood.

Check that.

She has put in her whole life (ὅλον τὸν βίον αὐτῆς).

Why would Jesus draw attention to this one person, of all the people in the gospel, and point to her as an example of discipleship? Why is she the great positive example who puts to shame all the others who are giving to God’s work?

Perhaps because in giving her life she has executed faithfully the sacrifice that Jesus lauds in ch. 8:

After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. (Mark 8:34-36, CEB)

She has given her life. She has not clung to it.

Unlike the rich man who cannot part with his wares, and unlike these rich who give from the overflow, she has given all.

Yes, she is consumed by the scribes who devour widows’ houses.

But then again, such forces lay behind Jesus’ own cross as well.

3 thoughts on “Life-Giving Widow”

  1. Also worth noting about the widow in Mark 12 is the way she amplifies the Shema, seen in the parallel between the accusative phrase “holon ton bion autes” and the genitive phrase “ex holes tes _____ sou” in 12:30. She’s not merely an exemplar of charity; she’s an exemplar of piety. Moreover, the object-accusative radicalizes the partitive phrase used in the Shema.

      1. A younger me with less-thorough Greek knowledge suggested that Mk 12 is concentric around the great commandments. I’m not sure that holds, but at the very least, I see them as the heart of that day’s teaching in the Temple, and they key to “getting it right.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.