Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” 9When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
You can imagine these friends around this table filled with the scents of wonderful food, telling stories and laughing together. They knew that the environment was difficult in the city. They knew that outside the warmth of this home were whispers of what was to come. But, for now, it felt better to just be together and not talk about what was brewing outside. And then Mary gets up and picks up this beautiful jar of expensive perfume. She pours it lavishly on Jesus’ feet not caring to conserve it at all. The smell of the perfume fills the room. And Mary kneels all the way down and loosens her hair, letting it fall to the floor. She then uses her hair to wipe the oil from Jesus’ feet.
In the silence created by the others in the room, Mary expressed her deep love for Jesus. She knew who Jesus was and she knew that the hour of his death was fast approaching. So, Mary put herself on the line, violating all of those societal rules that were in place. First, women weren’t supposed to put themselves in a position of being the center of attention. They were not supposed to touch a man that was not their husband, And the hair…for a woman to put her hair down in public would have been a disgrace. And then she wastes all that costly perfume. But you see, Mary was truly overcome with love for Christ. And she wanted him to know that she got it. The act was part of her. It was sacramental, an expression of who she was and what Christ’s love had made her.
Think about some of the language of the story—Mary took, poured, wiped. We will hear those same words this Thursday in the account of Jesus’ last meal: Jesus took the bread, poured out the wine, and wiped the feet of the disciples, and through these common gestures and such common touch, Jesus shows us what true love is. And as Mary takes, and pours, and wipes, she shows that same love toward Christ, and this small crowded house in Bethany becomes a cathedral and this simple meal becomes a Eucharist. Through her touch, through her love, the ordinary becomes sacred. Mary enters Jesus’ life and he becomes part of her. Her life becomes a sacrament that shows Jesus’ love to the world. And the whole world is now forever filled with the fragrance of that perfume. This was Mary’s calling. It was the way she loved, filling the house with the scent of grace and gratitude, filling the house with all she had, all that Jesus had made her be.
In this holiest of weeks, what would it mean for you to love Jesus that much? What would it mean for you to love anyone that much, so much that you would defy who the world thought you should be, so much that you would risk your reputation, your relationships, perhaps your life? What would it mean for you to pour yourself out for Jesus?
If you cannot be a poet, be the poem. (David Carradine)
Enjoy…”Grace and Gratitude”, Olivia Newton-John
FOR TODAY: Take, pour, wipe. Give lavishly and extravagantly. Be the poem.
Grace and Peace,