Extravagance — a very great outlay of resources exceeding the limits of reason and necessity; an instance of excess.
“Mary too a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.” (John 12)
Martha, Mary, and Jesus are sitting around the table having a resurrection party with Lazarus. Perusal, Martha is the busy body, and Mary in one way is no help at all, that is, until she helps the rest of the world see Jesus, really see Jesus. Just a few days ago he told them all the was resurrection and life, and then made Lazarus the parable. Now the Sanhedrin had an all points bulletin out. It was the promise and reality of resurrection that put Jesus on the most wanted list. Consider that both Mary and Judas are there considering the one who is about to suffer and die for both of them!
Somewhere in the celebration something happens to Mary. She is overwhelmed with the sense that what has happened to Lazarus is also in store for her. Mary, that one who sat down at Jesus’ feet to listen and learn about him, she remembers that as he rose up her brother he put his finger in his chest and said, “I am resurrection and life…everyone who believes in me will never die”, and that word everyone, everyone just lingers with her, and she realizes right in the middle of dinner that the words are for her, and she is overwhelmed, and has to do something. So she gets up and finds her treasure, a pound of costly perfume (that’s a year’s wages!) and comes and kneels down again and pours it all out over the feet of Jesus. Then she lets down her hair and dirties herself to wipe his feet clean.
What she does in ludicrous, wasteful, inappropriate, completely beautiful and extravagant. She anoints him not as a king which would be oil on the head, but as a corpse, the anointing of the feet being the final stage of burial. And immediately Judas, the chair of the Messianic trustee board, judges it all to be such a waste. But Jesus doesn’t think so, and tells them to let her go, and leave Mary alone.
In John’s gospel this action of Mary begins the passion narrative of Jesus. The Passover festival is only six days away, and here already and all ready is the Passover lamb of God, the lamb who is God. Mary herself is the parable of God’s love for the world in Jesus. What we see Mary do on this day with perfume we will watch Jesus do in days to come with his very life and breath….break it open and pour it out, all of it, because of love. The precious vessel in God’s hands will not be preserved; the precious substance will not be saved. It will be opened and poured out for the life of the world, emptied to the last drop.
Mary comes face to face with the impending death of Jesus, and all driven by God’s extravagant love. She is overwhelmed. So too may we be as we realize how God once and forever has loved us.