The Rev. Canon Bonnie-Marie Yager-Wiggan
Just before Passover, Jesus went to be with his friends and disciples: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (who was raised from the dead). As friends do, they throw a dinner party for Jesus. While they are dining together, Mary comes and anoints the feet of Jesus and wipes his feet with her hair.
We must pause for a moment and acknowledge that this is a weird thing for Mary to do even today. Multiple 100 times, and maybe we have an inkling of how bizarre and scandalous Mary’s devotion was in the presence of Jesus and the disciples. Jewish servants wouldn’t even be called to wash or touch another’s feet, the oil of pure nard was worth an entire year’s wages, and Jewish women would never unbind their hair in the presence of men outside their family.
Friends, Mary is a prophet, and prophets do weird, scandalous things. Mary isn’t some crazy spinster overawed by this teacher. She is calling all to the presence of the Son of God and pointing to the future ahead—a future she believes in his death, resurrection, and ascension.
Prophets’ actions often bring clarity by contrast. Judas, who is already a thief and will betray Jesus, questions her actions’ sensibility, “Silly woman, does she not know we could have sold this perfume and given the money to the poor?” Jesus condemns Judas by affirming Mary and reminding Judas of the law in Deuteronomy (Deut. 15:11). Yes, the poor are always with you; thus, you forgive debts, release enslaved people, return the land as a regular part of life, not an occasional donation.
Mary is preparing Jesus for burial; perhaps she feels a mixture of grief and hope. As the perfume lingers in the room, the disciples are invited to believe and prepare. We are invited too.
Canon Bonnie-Marie Yager-Wiggan has served at Trinity Cathedral since 2021. She and her husband, Jamie, enjoy exploring Pittsburgh with their Scottish terrier, Greyfriar.