Mary wasn’t trying to create a special one-on-one moment with Jesus… Mary was letting everyone know, this man, this Jesus, is worthy of everything we have.
Can you picture a mason jar? You know, those super trendy glass jars that were used in every wedding you went to in 2018? Those same glass jars that are being used as water glasses at that super hipster coffee shop that just opened? Ok, I admit, my wife and I may have a few at home that I like to use when I drink lemonade. Now that you know what I’m talking about, put that picture of a mason jar on the shelf for just a moment.
When I initially read the story found in John 12, I saw this event as much smaller than it was. I imagined Jesus, reclining at a table with a few friends. Then Mary quietly walks in, carrying a perfume bottle no taller than her finger. She slowly uncorks it, softly pours the aromatic oil over Jesus’ feet, and then proceeds to gently wipe his feet with her hair. It’s a quaint, intimate moment shared between Mary and Jesus, while others looked on, some confused, some in horror, some lowering their eyes trying to give Mary and Jesus a little privacy. I even like to imagine Peter in the corner thinking, “Why didn’t I think of that?! Where can I get some perfume?”
It’s a beautiful scene, right? I like to think so, but after a bit of study, my initial mental picture of John’s account was wrong. Let’s look at what John actually writes. Mary took a pint of perfume, broke the jar and poured it all on Jesus. Let’s grab that mason jar we imagined earlier off our mind’s shelf. Fill that up with nard, a musky, earthy smelling perfume. Now break it open (cf. Mark 14:3), and pour it out over the head (cf. Mark 14:3, Matthew 26:7) of someone you know. Pleasant moment? Not exactly.
This was no small act. Whether they wanted to be a part of the moment or not, everyone present was, uncomfortably so, there for the duration. This was an all-consuming event. The smell of the perfume immediately filling the entire room, the pieces of alabaster strewn across the floor, the liquid creeping towards other dinner guests, Mary wasn’t trying to create a special one-on-one moment with Jesus that people could avoid if they were so inclined. Mary was letting everyone know, this man, this Jesus, is worthy of everything we have. Worthy of a year’s wage (the value of the perfume). Worthy of our dignity (a woman would only let her hair down during “intimate” moments). Worthy of all our love.
What are you willing to give up today to express your love for him?