Broken The Woman Who Anointed Jesus’s Feet
Tirzah follows Jesus along outskirts of the crowd. She watches him raise the son of the widow of Nain from the dead. That day as he glanced her way, her spirit pleads with him to free her of the demons in her life. She feels them leave. She is free. Tirzah hears of a banquet to be held for Jesus at the house of a Pharisee named Simon. She hurries to her house and searches through her belongings—gifts given to her by her customers. She finds what she is looking for and goes to Simon’s house. What transpires that day has been remembered down through history as a supreme act of love.
Tirzah plucked a delicate fuchsia bougainvillea blossom from the burgeoning vine covering the wall beside the synagogue and threaded it into her hair. A woman to her right frowned and turned aside. Eyes. Eyes that recognized but turned away. Inquisitive eyes. Eyes darkened with judgment.
Tirzah ignored the rebuff and put a slender hand to her forehead to shield her eyes from the piercing rays of the midday sun. Jesus exited the synagogue surrounded by a cluster of learned men, the tzitzit on the corners of their blue and white prayer shawls swinging as they bobbed back and forth, whispering among themselves. People cleared a swath around Tirzah. It doesn’t matter—simply offers me a better view.
Women drew their children to their sides. Sneering lips and snubs didn’t faze her anymore. She had long ago calloused herself against them.
Word had spread through Capernaum that Jesus would be in the community this week. Curious, Tirzah managed to be across the street in front of the synagogue at the time she calculated the teaching would be finished. It had lasted longer than she’d anticipated, but still she lingered. She wanted to see what the hubbub was about.
His appearance did not match the rather spectacular rumors swirling around him of limbs healed, blind eyes opened, and multitudes miraculously fed. The man was of average height, dark haired—what she could see peeking out from his prayer shawl—and had a dark beard. She expected someone with a more imposing presence—someone tall with broad shoulders and a booming voice. He did look strong and robust, but his voice was mellow and soft. She would not have noticed him in a crowd. His most arresting features were his eyes. When he smiled, they crinkled in an engaging manner. Was it amusement? No, it was more like kindness or forbearance, graciousness perhaps.
Simon, a Pharisee whom she knew well, questioned the teacher as the men paused outside the entrance of the synagogue. He gestured with his hands in short choppy movements which he was prone to do when agitated. Leave it to Simon to make his opinion known. She couldn’t hear what it was that had upset him, but he obviously was disturbed. He turned from side to side, nodding to his colleagues as if by doing so he would garner their agreement. Some nodded. Some stroked their beards. Some simply stood quietly by and observed. Simon glanced at her but turned his eyes away quickly. She knew he saw her, but he gave no sign of recognition.
Jesus answered a few questions from the men gathered around him, then turned to leave. As he glanced across the narrow street in Tirzah’s direction, he caught her eye and held her gaze, smiling at her. A spark of recognition passed between them, but how could that be? She’d never seen him before.
Later that evening Tirzah answered the familiar rap. She slid the latch aside and opened the door, smiling as Simon stepped inside. He came to Tirzah’s house on the same night every week, hung his cloak on the same peg beside the door, and sat at her table in the same chair. She had already poured his glass of wine.
But this evening Simon produced a bundle wrapped in a beautiful scarf of variegated colors—blues, magentas, and purples. He seemed almost giddy, chuckling as he gently set it on the wooden table.
“What is this?”
“It’s for you.” He gestured with his hand. “Open it.”
She sat beside him and fingered the scarf without lifting the package. “This is beautiful in itself.”
Simon touched the dimple in her cheek. “Not as beautiful as you.” He motioned toward the parcel again. “Go on. Open it.”
She lifted and almost dropped it as the weight shifted in her hand. “Oops. It’s heavy.” Tirzah unwound the scarf to reveal a white alabaster container. “Oh. How lovely.” She held it up to the flame of the candle. The alabaster ewer seemed translucent as she turned it around in her hand.
“It holds very expensive ointment—however, not to be used to perfume your most desirable body.” His gaze swept from the top of her head to her feet, his eyes beckoning her toward him. “It is an investment for you, or to be used for burial spices.” He scratched his beard and shrugged his shoulder. “Not that you would need it anytime soon, but I worry about you. You have no one…no one to look after you.”
Tirzah set the container down and teased Simon, chucking him underneath his chin, then sitting in his lap. She took his face in her hands and nuzzled his beard. The cinnamon fragrance of the cassia oil that he used on his skin filled her nostrils. “I thought you said you would look after me.”
He cleared his throat, reached for the wine goblet and swirled the red liquid around in the cup while balancing Tirzah on his knee. “That I intend to do, but if something happens to me, then what?”
“I have Claudia.”
“A lot of good that cripple is to you.”
“Hush! She’ll hear you. She’s loved me and been more loyal to me than anyone else in my life, except my mother.” She rose and rewrapped the container in the scarf. “Oh, well, no need to bother about me. I’m simply a toy to you—something that you play with when you are in the mood and then put away when you go home to your wife.”
He grabbed for her arm. “You know you mean more to me than that. Haven’t I been good to you?”
She spun away from him and set the package on a shelf above the table. “What did you think about the rabbi who taught in the synagogue today? The miracle maker. He’s causing quite a stir.”
Simon raised his cup and took a swallow. “I saw you. Why do you subject yourself to the sneers and comments?”
“I was curious. And I have just as much right to be on the street as anybody else.” She set a bowl of fruit and cheese on the wooden table. A ripe pomegranate tumbled out of the bowl, and Simon caught it as it rolled toward the edge of the table.
“So what do you think about him?”
“Humph. What do I think about him?” Simon dug a nail into the skin of the fruit and tore it open. “Just a teacher. A good teacher, but just a teacher.”
“People say he performs miracles.”
“Exaggerations. Coincidences. I’ve never seen one, have you?” He grinned and, setting the pomegranate aside, pulled her down to his lap again. “I think I shall have a closer look at the man soon.”
“What do you mean?” Tirzah twirled a lock of his hair around her finger, and kissed the lobe of his ear.
“Perhaps an invitation to dinner would be in order—in a few days.”
Tirzah stared at Simon. In spite of the fact that he was older, he was still a handsome man. His dark hair sported very little gray, just around the temples. Gray eyes still flashed with amusement and alertness, not the bleary, watery eyes of many older men. And he was still strong and walked with a spring in his step.
Trailing her fingers over his chest, she snuggled into his embrace. She preferred older men. They were not always in such a hurry, and she somehow felt more secure with them…safe. Not that any of them would admit to their families or in public that they even knew who she was. Even Simon wouldn’t acknowledge her in public. But he was kind to her, so she agreed to give him a regular night.
Tirzah heard Claudia’s halting gait on the outside stairs going up to her quarters. Loyal Claudia. Tirzah was grateful for her friend, but she missed her mother. She thought of her often, although her childhood memories were not pleasant. The life Rhoda had provided for Tirzah was sometimes scary—dangerous even.
She got out the flask of wine she kept for Simon, but her mind drifted far away.