A Pound of Pure Nard
Then Mary took a pound of costly perfume, made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. – John 12:3
She didn’t hold back. She used a whole pound of that costly perfume, not just a half. Pure nard, not cut with some cheaper oil. Nard that had to come all the way from the Himalayas. Nard that cost a full year’s wages. Nard that had no practical use other than to fill the room with its scent and to soothe his dry and cracked feet.
That night in Bethany, when she and her sister and brother welcomed Jesus to their table for what turned out to be the last time, she didn’t parcel out her love. She used a whole pound of nard.
Three days later, he didn’t hold back either. When he washed the disciples’ feet during that last supper with them, he washed them all. All twenty-four feet, all as dry and dirty as his. He didn’t skip a one, not even those of Peter who would deny him or of Judas who betrayed him. As John writes, having loved them in this world, “he loved them to the end.” Just like Mary loved him.
“We love because God first loved us,” affirms John’s First Letter. Perhaps Jesus could love as he did because Mary had loved him. She anointed his feet, he washed the disciples’. She poured out her love as she poured out that costly perfume. He did the same for the disciples—and for this whole world.
God, as we journey through this holy week, may we remember Mary’s love and Jesus’ love. May we also remember those who have shown us such love, more priceless than a whole pound of nard.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.