I once preached a sermon on three Mary’s, not three Hail Mary’s but people I knew, were faithful, Christian people. This time, this Mary did something unspeakable, why don’t we explore it together.
I have found that often I’ve read a piece of scripture over and over and yet still somehow find new insights. Does that happen to you too?
Which Mary was it then and does it matter? Why do the other gospels say it was his head that was anointed and only this his feet?
Well the confusion can come easily to us as there are four accounts of Mary either pouring oil on Jesus’ head or in today’s gospel from John, where it’s his feet.
Now I may digress for a moment, but is this about Mary or feet? Did Jesus’ really need his feet cleansed by this most expensive gift shared by Mary?
‘I am not worthy to untie the straps of his sandals’ John the Baptist said to his disciples.
If John wasn’t worthy, why did Mary think she was?
In ancient times, we read about the dusty roads, the welcome into a household by having feet cleaned. Even Jesus did this to his disciples, an act reserved for the lowest of the low in a household.
Could that be the reason Mary did it?
The others were outraged, well by the others I really mean Judas – that’s what we’re told.
‘Why was this perfume not sold?’
We also read that Martha served dinner. She did that before and moaned to Jesus about Mary siting at his feet and not helping.
I am wondering if this Mary, Mary of Bethany in John’s gospel, was simply doing something she felt she could. She had sat at his feet before. She was allowed to do that then, so why not now?
Luke’s gospel tells us - “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
This gospel says “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.”
Another Mary went to the tomb to do just as this Mary had done. To prepare his body for burial, a final gift to this man who had taken time to get to know his disciples even the women, all who cared for him practically or deeply in their hearts.
So, what is this about?
Is it a guessing game of the Mary’s, or a competition to see who’s doing what and when? Is it an act of grace or kindness that was seen as too early or not needed at all?
Or could it be an example of quite how much God as Jesus loves us? Far deeper, far more exuberant, unexpected love.
If washing someone’s feet has so much more to it, perhaps we might try that someday soon.