Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
We now begin to walk through the events of Passion Week, the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are so grateful to Jesus for raising Lazarus from the dead that they throw a banquet in his honor. While Lazarus relaxes with Jesus and his guests, Martha does what she always does: she serves. Poor Martha; always in the shadow of her sister, but always faithfully serving.
And then Mary shows up and shocks everyone. First she breaks a jar of incredibly expensive perfume (worth a year’s wages!); then she pours it on Jesus’ feet (only the lowest servants touched the feet of a guest!); and then she loosens her hair and wipes his feet with her hair (a Jewish woman would never loosen her hair in the presence of a man other than her husband!). Mary’s love for Jesus was so great she broke all the grounds of propriety to show him her love. No doubt when any of those at the banquet smelled this particular perfume again they would have remembered Mary’s shocking act of devotion.
And note carefully how Jesus responds. He is not saying ignore the poor; they will always be around for you (plural) to care for, but I will not. Mary, it seems, has sensed more than the disciples that Jesus’ death and burial is coming soon, and she does not want to miss her chance to care for her Lord in this way.
What about us? How much do we love Jesus? How much do we show him our love? May the prayer of Elizabeth Prentiss be our prayer as well:
More love to Thee, O Christ,
More love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make
On bended knee;
This is my earnest plea:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee!