Hey y’all! How is everybody? It’s been hot here. So, repeat after me: NEVER leave a child, pet or elderly person in the car, even for ‘just a minute’. Thanks for noticing. Now, grab a glass of something cold and find a comfy spot. One of my favorite Bible stories is Mary anointing the feet of Jesus. I’ve probably talked about her before, but recently had the opportunity to present a devotional, so it’s fresh. That story is so rich, especially if you can get to the culture where it occurred. Let’s go see!
In that day and time, women were largely chattel – simply things a man owned. Her father or husband may have loved her dearly; I’m not saying it was always bad. She often did not have an education, and did not own property or business. She may have been the right arm to her husband, but even then she had no protective rights under the law of the land.
A woman had precious little that she controlled- except her hair. Long, well-kept, a delight to her husband; usually put up and covered with a veil. Paul talks about the woman’s hair being her glory in 1 Corinthians 11:14-16. She may have owned two other things – an alabaster jar of spikenard, a perfume to use at her burial; and she probably had a tear vase. The tear vase was a tall, slender vase that was brought out whenever something emotional happened in the family – births, deaths, marriages, etc. When the family cried, they all collected their tears into the tear vases. These were sealed with wax between events. They represented all the important events of one’s life, and were usually buried with you. So, between the tear vase and the perfume, your entire life was represented from birth to death.
When Mary encountered Jesus, she was transformed. Humbled by His love and forgiveness, she genuinely wanted to love Him in return, with a pure, selfless love. According to Luke 7:36-50, everyone knew her and everyone knew she was a ‘sinner’. The Greek means ‘immoral woman’ and implies that she was a prostitute. Mark 9 and Luke 8:2 both record that Jesus had cast seven demons out from her.
I can only imagine what was going through her heart and mind. How desperate to show Him she was a new woman! How deep the desire to follow Him who had given life back to her! So, she risked literally everything, counting the cost- the sneers of those who had known her before; the fury of those who would disapprove of the taboos she was about to break; the stares and abuse of the Pharisee and his guests; a possible beating or even stoning. But she had to let Jesus know, she had to say Thank You! in more than just the words of a prayer.
So off Mary went, unexpected and uninvited, to the home of one of the highest religious leaders of the day. She took her entire life in her hands- her hair, the perfume and her tears.
When she arrived, she knew what to do. Mary let down her hair, dismantling her own glory, and took a deep breath for courage. Then she stepped into His presence and knelt at His feet, weeping tears of humble gratitude and love, adding the tears from her tear vase. She wiped his road-dirtied feet with her hair, again counting her own glory as less than nothing. She anointed His feet with the entire bottle of perfume. She worshiped Him with literally everything, she poured her entire life out at His feet. She came as a repentant sinner. She didn’t hide. She didn’t deny. She brought it all to Him with no thought of those sitting there with their astonished looks.
Jesus didn’t reproach her, or scold her, as the Pharisees did. He received her, forgave her, restored her. He showed tender love and mercy by His very reception of her love; He vindicated her worship by His comments to the Pharisees there. From later accounts and church Tradition, after Jesus forgave her, she was with Him all the way to the end at the crucifixion (John 19:25) and was the first one He appeared to after the resurrection. (Mark 16:9, John 20:18). Catholic Tradition sometimes refers to her as the “Apostle to the Apostles” in view of her telling the men that Jesus was alive after the crucifixion.
How about me? Do I really lay everything at His feet in worship and service? Do I disregard my own glory to prefer His? Am I truly and humbly grateful for His many gifts in my life?
What about you? Do you feel an urge to go pray, to pour your own life at His feet? Go ahead! Do you need someone to talk to who can help you get to Him? Find a pastor or priest. They will be happy to help you experience His love and forgiveness, with the joy and freedom that follows!