(John 12:1-8) If I were to honor you like Mary did that week before you died, what could I do? My worship seems so paltry. Mary, the disciple who had sat at your feet, learning, brought expensive perfume – worth a whole year’s wages— and humbly rubbed it on your feet, that sacred space for her. She anointed the Anointed One! The aroma filled the room like an offering of incense, worship made tangible for those who were sentient, prayerful reminder of the Presence in the Holy Place. Perfume also drenched the cloths wrapping a corpse for burial. Had she heard him share that he would soon die, giving his own life to save his sheep? Her offering was sacrifice to honor the one who would be the ultimate sacrifice, the one whose death would rip open the curtain that separated the incense altar from the Most Holy Place. Mary’s hair wiped the ointment from his feet as she knelt, the perfume of her prayer now with her wherever she went. I have no such costly perfume, just the incense of my heart when the words of my prayer rise to the skies, gratitude for your self-sacrificing love swirling out in hesitant speech and growing into song. My white hair can testify that you are faithful. It can spread the aroma of who you are to those who understand the scent, the truth that knowing you has changed me, made me your disciple, your sent one, more and more like you. Like Mary, I will kneel and pour out my love and thanks in worship. Like Mary, I need to honor you by offering what I have, all for you.
Mary was a woman who could not let go of an opportunity to be close to Jesus. Her yearning to learn put her in the posture of a disciple, at the feet of the Master. In the past, she had listened. Somehow his teaching, and the concurrence of events like Jesus’ raising her own brother from the dead, had made her desperate to show him that she knew he was God’s Chosen Servant whose climactic hour had come. So she took that expensive perfumed ointment that she owned and proclaimed his anointed status, not by pouring it on his head as was customary, but by washing his feet with it – a humble servant stance. Wiping the ointment on his feet with her hair strikes me as an intimate offering of herself in that act of worship.
Would I have had the audacity to act out my devotion so humbly in that public space?
Mary’s humble, loving worship in advance of the once-for-all sacrifice of our Savior can inspire us, we who live in the informed time following the resurrection, to offer what we have. “All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give . . .”1 And if we do this in a worshipful way, spending time with him and getting to know him intimately, the aroma of who he is will flow out from us to fill the room, the space we inhabit. We can be proclaimers too!
But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. (2 Cor. 2:14 CSB)
1 Judson W. Van de Venter (1855-1939)