I’m sitting on the deck, sipping coffee. The lake’s not as smooth as it has been. The crows, conversing between trees, are distracting me from the conversations I’m wishing I could have with a couple empty chairs on the deck.
Mary and Judas sit in empty chairs, looking past me, not meeting my gaze. I want to ask them questions, want to look for motives, want to find facts. I know that a few answers would make sense of a peculiar event.
The facts I have are few: Mary pours expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Judas says that money could help the poor.
Judas’ complaint makes sense to religiously skeptical and thoughtfully faithful alike: Shouldn’t that money be given to the poor rather than being used on decorations?
We build church buildings that seem to glorify a pastor more than God, that are used seldom, that point up rather than reaching out. In moments of emotional extravagance, we weep at Jesus’ feet when we could spend that energy doing something important. And shouldn’t we be doing something that matters rather than merely worshiping?
As I ask the questions, I see Judas sitting up a bit, looking thoughtful, trying to look benevolent. But then we turn to John who is willing to talk to us. We know that Judas stole money out of the community purse. His interest in the poor was his interest in his pocket. And Judas slumps in his chair, arms folded. The questions remain, but Judas isn’t the one who gets to ask.
We don’t know Mary’s motivation. We don’t know Mary’s facts.
So where did she get perfume that would have cost an ordinary worker a year’s wages? What would make her so grateful that she would give it all to Jesus? What do you think?