Why did Mary do it? Maybe she wanted to give something back, to the one who was always doing things for others, always healing, always loving, always telling them about the kingdom of heaven. Maybe Mary felt it was time to make an offering to Jesus, a treat for him, that would tell him just how much he was loved and appreciated.
But what can we do? We can’t anoint his feet – he isn’t here.
For Mary to be able to do this wonderful thing for her Lord and ours she had to be prepared to use up something precious. Perhaps she had been saving the precious perfume for her wedding day. Maybe it was a present. What do we have that we keep squirreled away, until the day when it might be useful? Maybe Jesus would like us to use our most precious possession for his glory. And maybe, like the container of nard, which would have been broken open, we need to break ourselves open. You see, we are his most precious possession.
And we are our own most precious possession too. Sometimes we keep our own selves hidden away from serving Jesus, from loving God’s people. Maybe Mary is giving us a pattern here when we can break ourselves open, get rid of the mask, the brittle exterior, and let the costly perfume of our own selves spread in the air, spreading love and the kingdom of God.
Judas complains that the money wasted by this extravagant display of love would be better spent on the poor. But Jesus doesn’t even go there, he accepts the anointing, the gift of love, and puts the poor into a new perspective. They will always be here. You can help them whenever you want. He saw through Judas’ self-righteousness, and challenged him to be more giving. We can be challenged too, to lift our heads up from caring for God’s people, just sometimes, and focus on worshipping him. Sometimes we need a reminder, to keep connected with the reason why we serve the poor. Otherwise the Gospel becomes just another social service agency, and loses its potency as the life-changing revelation of God on earth.
But I won’t always be here, Jesus said. Mary’s gift took on an added significance as he spoke of his burial. Can you imagine the cold hand that would have wrapped itself around Mary’s heart, as Jesus spoke of his death. Just when she had got used to Lazarus being alive again, and thought that the horror of death had receded for a while, here is the Lord of life, who could conquer her brother’s death, calmly talking about his absence.
And this sets the tone for the week ahead, as we walk the long and lonely road to the cross, with Jesus.