Sometimes Too Much is Just Right

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. – John 12:3

I grew up Southern Baptist, so Lent was not part of my church life. Instead, seasonal goodies marked the approach of Easter. Caffee’s Bakery in my hometown, Portsmouth, Virginia, sold the local favorite. Everything there smelled so good, and there were plenty of delights year-round, but nothing matched their pound cake eggs. I’ve never tasted anything like them again. Frosted in pastel pink, yellow, and green, they were the perfect size for one person.

A dear childhood friend remembers that each year her dad would buy four dozen cake eggs—one box each for his wife and three daughters, marked with their names. Was he avoiding repeated requests to bring home more? Or was this outsized gesture a sign of his love? I like to think so. Maybe he knew that sometimes too much is just right.

On his way to Jerusalem, the night before what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus stopped in Bethany to have dinner with his close friends, Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. While Martha served, Mary sat on the floor and poured fragrant perfume over Jesus’ feet. To some in the room, her behavior seemed as over-the-top as bringing home four boxes of cake eggs. Why would you spend money on something so temporary? Why not use that money to feed the poor?

I imagine Mary, using her long hair to wipe her Lord’s feet. The Gospel writer does not tell us what she is thinking, but I think I know. Let the others criticize; she did not mind. Sometimes too much is just right.

Holy Maker of All Good Things, inspire us to extravagant actions that fill the world with the fragrance of your love. Amen.

Martha Spong About the Author
Martha Spong is a UCC pastor, a clergy coach, and editor of The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, new from The Pilgrim Press.