John 12:1-11

1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.

Mary Magdalene Anointing Christ’s Feet (c. 1500) National Library Wales

3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.

The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

7Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor 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 because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.


It is such an extravagant gesture of pure devotion – “a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard.” For an average wage inner in Jesus’ day, this represents nearly a year’s earnings. How did Mary manage to have such material wealth at her disposal? What would it cost her to offer her riches in such a reckless fashion?

I wonder what there might be in life to which I would be so devoted that I might feel called to make such a sacrificial offering? What would it take to open my heart to the depth of giving that Mary demonstrated?

I fear that, in this story, I might find myself more aligned with Judas than Mary –

Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?

It sounds so responsible, so reasonable, so charitable. But, John lets us know that Judas is motivated, not by compassion for the poor, but by self-interest and greed.

Or perhaps I find myself standing with the “chief priests”, who are determined to put an end to such irresponsible behaviour.

What security lay at the centre of Mary’s life that enabled her to stand against the disciples and to refuse the wisdom of the religious officials of her tradition? What inner strength made it possible for Mary to abandon the securities the world offers and live with such surrender and love?


What will it take to bring me to the place of abandon from which Mary was able to live? How might I find the strength to stand alone in the face of opposing forces and give myself to the power of love?