Every year I anticipate and very much appreciate a gift from my husband: a small bottle of my favorite perfume. If I am really, really careful, I can make that beautiful scent last the entire year. And call me crazy, or human, but the last thing I would do with something so precious is pour it onto a man’s feet (yes, even the feet of a man I love). But that’s exactly what Mary of Bethany did. You know the story:
“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3 (NIV)
Just six days before the Lord’s crucifixion, Mary of Bethany broke her alabaster jar of perfume and released every drop, saving nothing for herself. Ounce after ounce drenched Jesus’ skin, soaked the hem of His garment and pooled on the floor around His heels. With the fragrant perfume running through her fingers, Mary anointed and massaged His feet right there in front of God and everybody.
It was scandalous. And awesome.
Was this substance cool to the touch or warm? Sticky or silky? Only Jesus and Mary knew how it felt. But everyone knew what it meant. I love You. I honor You. I worship and adore You.
And that wasn’t it. She wasn’t finished. Following the same path as her perfume, her dark hair spilled across His feet, as Mary of Bethany “wiped his feet with her hair.” The original Greek simply reads “the hair of her with the feet of him.” Yes, that’s it. Her hair. His feet.
I think a woman’s hair is closely tied to her sense of self-worth, and, in these powerful moments, Mary was quietly letting go of self — her longing to be looked up to, her desire to be attractive, her need to be liked. Ooof...I want to be more like her.
This devout follower, this beloved sister, used her long hair to dry a man’s feet, the lowest job for the lowliest servant. She laid her whole being before Him: her pride, her reputation, her social standing, her clean hands, her pure heart.
“And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” In fact, the scent carried right out the door.
Today, we read Mary’s story and stand in awe of her sacrifice, but we’re also left wondering how we could ever hope to duplicate it. Her perfume was “worth a year’s wages” — about $30,000 in today’s currency. Is that what the Lord expects us to do? Give up everything we have?
Yes. But don’t panic. Hear me out.
Everything we have comes from God, yes? — our possessions, our bodies, our talents, our spiritual gifts, our everything. So, He will provide what He intends us to sacrifice, and He will give us the strength and courage to let go. That’s how amazing our God is. Can we trust Him to do that? He is “… able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV).