The past week had two significant days in it related to women. On Thursday it was International Women's Day, and on Sunday it was Mother's Day in the UK.
In light of these two days observed in our secular calendar, our passage from Sunday ends with a curious verse. After Jesus has been anointed with expensive perfume by one the woman who followed him, Jesus says:
“Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Some commentators point out that despite Jesus' words of praise for the woman who anointed his feet with oil, her name is not recorded. How curious it is that Jesus says that what she has done will be told in memory of her, but the writer of Mark's Gospel forgets to record her name.
Mark's Gospel records the 12 disciples names, despite the fact that in Mark's Gospel they are continually portrayed as failing to understand and grasp the way of Jesus, but this woman who has deep insight into to the events that are about to unfold is left unnamed.
Some suggest that this passage reveals the dangers of patriarchal culture where woman are regarded as somehow less significant than men, and therefore their names and contributions are too easily forgotten.
This patriarchal bias is evident elsewhere in Mark's Gospel. At the feeding of the 5000, what we have is a record of 5000 men. The writer specifically states that women and children have been excluded from the count. The men, the apparently important and significant one's are recorded, and the women and children, the less significant one's are simply excluded from the count.
It is a reminder of how for centuries the role of women has simply gone unnoticed, unacknowledged and often taken for granted. Isn't it amazing that it is only 100 years since women were able to vote. Before that women were regarded as not being competent enough to be entrusted with the vote.
How unthinkable it is today that women should be excluded from voting, and yet in recent months and weeks it has become evident that many women are still paid less than men for doing the same work, simply because they are women. This week on International Women's Day a calculation suggested that the gender pay-gap equates to women working 67 days of the year for free when compared to men. Even today, despite progress having been made women are still under-valued and treated as less significant and less worthy than men.
In this passage, Jesus holds up this unnamed woman as having done something of great significance, enough that he says that she should be remembered, but the writer of Mark's Gospel forgets to tell us her name.
On Mother's Day, we had an opportunity to remember our mother's, most of whom like the unnamed woman in this passage have loved us and sustained us in countless ways that have most often gone unnoticed, just part of the hum-drum of every-day life. Very seldom seen or acknowledged.
Secondly, in the passage in verse 6, Jesus says of the unnamed woman, “She has done a beautiful thing for me.”
It was Mother Teresa who was quoted by Malcolm Muggeridge that what motivated her was her desire to do beautiful things for God.
Jesus says of the unnamed woman in Mark's Gospel: “She has done a beautiful thing for me.”
As Jesus acknowledged the significance of what the unnamed woman did for him, so we acknowledge on Mother's Day that our mother's, like the unnamed woman, have done a beautiful thing for us. Thank you to all our mothers.
As part of our Mother's Day service on Sunday we paused to remember those mother's who are no longer with us and who we still hold dear in our hearts. As we paused to remember them we listened to Ed Sheeran's song: Supermarket Flowers.