Mary's gratitude to Jesus after restoring her brother Lazarus to the household was enormous. Her love for Jesus was overwhelming. She wanted to express it. She could not have chosen a more embarrassing way do it. In an astonishing intimate gesture Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus' feet with very expensive perfumed ointment. Even more shockingly she wiped his feet with her hair.
It was inevitable that criticism would be immediate - the immodesty, the stepping out of her expected role helping Martha to serve the meal, the waste of expensive assets instead of giving to the poor. Women simply cannot let their hair down like that in public without being damned by 'respectable' people.
Tom Wright suggests this is an incident that demands that we ask,
"where are you in this picture?" *So I have to ask, am I "with the shameless Mary worshipping Jesus with everything" I've got? Am I with Martha feeling overburdened by too much to do and angry that my sister is shaming the family instead of helping me? Am I with Judas, carefully calculating the perfume's worth and working out how many hungry mouths that could feed if it was sold? Where am I?
You can read the story in John 12: 1 - 11. You can read a reflection in 5 Senses of Love. I will update this page later with links to more reflections written by others. Now - it's off to the dentist! Perhaps there'll be time to reflect more there?
Update: (I survived the dentist.) I promised some other links so here you are:
- Pam's Perambulation blog has a poem/prayer, some music and some good pictures relating to Mary of Bethany's offering in Life Poured Out ii. do take a look.
- Rachel Held Evans blog has a helpful post in 'Women of the Passion, Part 1: The Woman at Bethany annoints Jesus'. Well worth reading.
* Wright, N.T. 'John for Everyone, part 2', SPCK 2002, p. 23
Image Credit: Found on Pinterest, pin by Wengang Zhu