Quite a contrast, isn't it? There is Mary, who pours a pound of expensive perfume on Jesus' feet, an extravagant act of devotion. Her behavior, particularly when she used her hair to dry Jesus' feet, probably embarrassed a few of Jesus' followers. Her display of affection provoked a pious objection from Judas: "The money should have gone to the poor." Judas had a point, of course, but he was a thief, and so his motives are suspect. The stark contrast between Mary and Judas teaches us that Jesus welcomes a loving, generous act.
Jesus defends Mary, and in his response, we see another contrast to ponder: death and life. "It was intended for my burial," Jesus somberly says. "You will not always have me." Forget the limits; life is short and opportunities are rare.
There are times when our gratitude and joy are so overwhelming that we cannot repress them, even for the sake of the needy. Surely we can't forget the poor, for they continually provoke our compassion. Yet there are times when joy will trump duty, and we let down our hair, weep and adore the one who conquered death and gave us new life.
John 12:1-11 (NRSV)
1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.
3 Mary 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.
4 But 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.)
7 Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.
8 You 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.
10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well,
11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.