One of the sweetest acts in the gospels–literally and figuratively–has to be that of Mary anointing Jesus with expensive perfume, and her sweeping her hair tenderly over his feet.
It was also a bold act on Mary’s part, in light of the context of the times, since a Jewish woman was forbidden from loosening her hair in public in such a way. It was a measure of her extravagant love for, and devotion to Jesus–he whose love for Mary and everyone else (you and me included, of course) was and remains without bounds.
The scripture points out that the entire house was filled with the sweet smell of the high-dollar perfume that she popped open.
And leave it to a grouchy, greedy man, Judas, to be upset enough to denounce Mary for her loving behavior.
Here’s the entire scripture from John 12:
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. 8 The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” 9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
Judas had a corrupted view of what is precious and valuable to God.
Mary gave God the best she could give.
There’s more wonderful theology to be mined from this wonderful story, and a lot of bad theology is taken from it by those who seem to take it as a license to show limited love and generosity toward the poor, not the unlimited love and generosity of Christ.
Jesus, after all, does say, “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
But people in those days knew their Holy Book in its entirety. Christians today–not so much.
Jesus, who after all was a rabbi and knew what we Christians refer to as our “Old Testament,” was pointing back to a scripture from Deuteronomy 15:
“There will never cease to be poor people in the country. . . .
“And this is why I am giving you this command: always be open handed with your brother, and with anyone in your country who is in need and is poor!” (Dt 15, 11b).
Those who heard Jesus say that “the poor will be with you always” knew very well the inference from Deuteronomy.
Jewish law required that the community share its good with the needy.
Judas was not about “opening his hand to help the poor.”
Sadly, the corrupted Judases are always with us.
Thank God Christianity does, however, have its Marys as well.