"Mary does not calculate the cost of her love the way Judas does. Instead, she lavishly pours out her valuable possession at Jesus’ feet.
Such love is at the heart of biblical economics."
"Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound, of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair"
Image: "The Extravagant Way" Todd Pick, 2017.
PILGRIMS ON A JOURNEY
We meet Jesus at a table, sharing a meal among friends. He is just six days away from sitting down at another table and another meal with his disciples in an upper room. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is on the horizon, and Mary—the one who has been scolded by her sister for not doing enough work—wants to bless the feet that will walk an impossible road of suffering.
Can you imagine the smell of that amount of perfume, costing almost a year’s wages, filling every corner of that room where they were eating? It was the smell of extravagant love. It was the smell of blessing amid an atmosphere of almost certain betrayal. The scripture from Luke that tells of Lazarus raised, speaks specifically about the stench coming from the tomb. I wonder if the scent of death stuck in their nostrils that night at dinner.
Perhaps it's the smells of life and death mingling together that is the hard part about this text. While we may want Mary’s devotion to make the stench of death dissipate, that is not, unfortunately, the point. Death and life exist together. It is part of our human reality. As we draw ever closer to Holy Week—the place on the pathway where abundant life meets death—it is part of our Christian reality to walk in the knowledge that death does not have the final word.
Mary anoints Jesus’ feet. Feet that are dirty, smelly, calloused and cracked from the hundreds of miles of ministry that they have walked. It's a strange place to pour a year’s worth of wages. Usually, when someone anoints another person, the oil is poured upon the head, like a king. But Mary, knowing Jesus, knew that he was grounded. She knew that he was rooted in the dust of the earth, just as we are. Mary also knew those feet had to carry Jesus a little further to the cross. Her action has a ghostly echo six days later as Jesus takes off his robe and washes his disciples’ feet, while unnamed women (maybe Martha and Mary among them) prepare the last meal they will have together before his crucifixion.
As you continue walking the way of Lent, may your feet keep you grounded as the path leads into Holy Week. Wherever they lead you to minister, wherever they carry you to bring good news, may your feet be blessed this day.
PRAYER FOR THE JOURNEY
Extravagant God, we lift up our thanks that you constantly stir our souls, gently lighting the colors and awakening the flavors we had forgotten were within us. You refresh us and renew us. You reveal the gifts within us that must be shared in community. And in loving response, we offer ourselves to be poured out like perfume for weary feet.
When what others need for joy and life has run out, teach us to use our plenty to sustain them. When others despair or hurt or mourn, teach us to use our presence and our gifts to bring hope and healing. Anoint our feet to bring good news into places of death. Teach us to see the love you pour out so extravagantly, and then to share it lavishly and abundantly.