Posts Tagged ‘nard’

Without a doubt, one of my favorite passages, for the story and its implications is Mark 14:3-9:

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

mary and nardThis act speaks volumes and as Jesus said, her story would be told throughout time. Here we are, two thousand years later, and her sacrifice is still included in the Easter story. In today’s dollars, pure nard would probably cost about $3000/ounce. The amount she used, which had been saved for her own burial (or her family), was about twelve times that. She gave it all, without reserve.

She gave out of her love for Jesus. She gave our of her innate understanding of who he was (my own interpretation). She gave because He was more valuable to her than any material thing. She gave without thought for anyone else. She broke many rules that day. She offended many. She probably shamed a few. But she acted with resolve and humility.

And me? Not so much. I rarely exhibit extravagance in my devotion. I am exuberant and I am big-natured and flamboyant, but not in the arena of worldly possessions. I see it daily now as I examine every detail of my home. I have to move. I have to give away or throw away all the non-essentials. Even that is hard to do. And here, Mary, gave not her “non-essentials” but her most valuable possession.

Oh, dear Lord. Forgive my materialism, my 21st century pragmatism and self-preservation.

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Mary and Jesus FeetThen Mary took about a pintof 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. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” [John 12:3-5]

I just got the real picture of Mary and the nard (spikenard oil) and Jesus’s feet. In the past, while reading this passage and other similar ones about a woman who washed or anointed Jesus and then used her hair afterwards, I imagined her holding her long strands of hair to wipe like a cloth. But now I see differently. It’s more like nuzzling. I wish I could explain more clearly what I see in my head, this women kissing, embracing, stroking and pressing her head to Jesus’s feet (or head or hands or mantel); holding him close to her face, her lips, her hair. I think about my own ways of  holding close my kids or my pets. I put them right up to my face and hair, cheek to cheek, head to head. It’s intimate, it’s loving, it’s tender.

Essentially, I don’t believe this act was about washing or cleansing. Instead, it was purely a demonstrative act of love. And I suppose it could be called a humble act but love, but then, in its purest form, isn’t love humble anyway. At least it should be.

Judas’s response is more dramatic in hindsight. After all, we know now, he was the betrayer. But, in that moment, his reaction told a different story: he revealed his inability to recognize love. Following Jesus was never about love, it was about freedom. He must have been a “reasoning” man: perhaps even calculating. His passion was the overthrow of the Romans, the victory of the long-awaited Messiah who would bring Israel back to its former glory. For him, Mary’s act was, at best, sentimental and certainly a waste of resources. He was pragmatic and eventually (sooner than later), this led him to choose unwisely, to “move things along,” to force Jesus’s hand (without knowing what that would really look like). Judas did not expect his rabbi to be crucified. Instead, he expected an uprising of great proportions, a revolution. But he never understood the real revolution was in the heart.

Mary’s heart was already set free. She loved Jesus with abandon.

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