The Teacher and his disciples snuck down from the wilderness town they’d been staying in out of public view back to the town of Bethany, where his closest of friends lived. It wasn’t long ago that Jesus had come here and brought Lazarus back from the dead–making him undead–performing a miracle so great that when the people saw what Jesus had done, many who had doubted before believed in him.
Lazarus had cheated death, because he knew Jesus. And Jesus loved him.
The religious leaders had heard about it too, and wanted to get rid of Jesus and his popularity. They’d even considered killing off Lazarus as well, once and for all, for fear of his resurrection story and the momentum it brought to this belief in Jesus as the Messiah.
Under the mounting pressure of the coming Passover, which would be Jesus’ last, he and his disciples once again entered the home of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. They all were comfortable here, and they all were welcome.
The air around the table was thick with the mixed emotions of this gathering–fear of the Pharisees and their plots to kill both the Guest and his host, unbridled joy in the company of close friends, anticipation for the coming religious festival, and an immense gratitude that couldn’t be expressed in mere words.
Lazarus was still alive! Jesus brought him back from beyond the grave!
It was an amazing meal. Figs, bread, choice wine and lamb, which had been marinated in mixed herbs for over twelve hours. The small house smelled like a fine restaurant, bathed in a feast of food.
Martha was pleased with her efforts, and had spared no expense in preparation for her hospitality. She served the guests as her brother, Jesus, and the disciples casually lounged on pillows chatting around the table, propped up with one arm and eating with the other. But where had Mary slipped away to? She had a habit of skipping out on the work that needed to be done. Martha glanced to see if she was once again sitting at the feet of Jesus, staring at him as usual–focusing on his every word and leaving all else for later.
Where was she? Finally, Mary entered quietly from the other room. Tears were streaming down her face, but she was silent. She had a small jar clasped in her hands as she approached the Teacher. Kneeling beside him, she poured the contents of the jar onto his feet, massaging a thick oil into his skin.
It was then that everyone in the room realized what was in the jar.
An intoxicating fragrance filled the room, overpowering any memory of the smell of food. The Egyptian-imported essential oil’s intense aromatic scent of lavender and flowers and spices caused the room to spin, and everyone stopped eating. All eyes were on Mary as she poured it all out–a full pound of pure nard oil–onto the feet of Jesus, rubbing it in first with her hands, and then wiping his feet dry with her hair.
Martha was speechless. Her dinner ruined, interrupted by her sister’s awkward affection of Jesus, she didn’t know what to say. But strangely, she wasn’t angry–there was something beautiful about what Mary was doing. Martha didn’t understand why, but it was innocent…intimate…and…
“EXPENSIVE!!!! This is RIDICULOUS!” Judas exclaimed. His head was still woozy from the overpowering fragrance.
“Why would you waste something so valuable?” He was standing now, indignant as he towered over the kneeling woman whose slick hair was covered in perfume that represented her family’s life savings. “What’s wrong with you?! Outside beggars and children and lepers go hungry and you dump out a perfume that could have been sold for what most families make in a year?! Why wasn’t it sold and given as a gift to the poor if you want to show your appreciation of Jesus?”
“Leave her alone,” Jesus said, his gentle hand touched the top of Mary’s shoulder as he stood, now eye to eye with the one who would later turn him over to the religious leaders for a small fortune himself. “Don’t worry, Judas,” he turned and looked at the others, still sitting stunned by this unanticipated interruption of their evening. “If you’re really, truly concerned about the poor, there will always be ample opportunity for you to help them.”
He looked tenderly at Mary.
“But you do not always have me with you. She’s done all she could do; she’s anointed my body beforehand for the coming burial. She’s given what is considered valuable for that which she considers precious.”