Friday ended with a question: “What would make her [Mary, Martha’s sister] so grateful that she would give it all to Jesus? What do you think?”
You didn’t answer. I don’t blame you. Any answer would be speculation.
One friend of mine suggests that she may have been a prostitute. Catholic tradition for centuries made Mary, Mary Magdalene, and an unnamed woman into the same person, thanks to a couple sermons in the late sixth century. Many other traditions and other scholars argue that there are actually two or three people represented.
Doing that research was a good cautionary note to me about speculation. I could assume that Mary had been a prostitute, that she had left “the life”, that she was living with her family who had taken her in, that she had kept this incredibly valuable perfume as a last remaining possession of value, that she poured it out in gratitude to Jesus for his forgiveness and acceptance.
It would made a wonderful story about how Jesus sees value in people who have stopped seeing value in themselves. If you look at being a prostitute as a sad situation, if you look at adultery as a stone-able offense, then this graciousness of Jesus would be a wonderful lesson.
And that wonderful lesson would have no more grounding in scripture than the story about Jesus and the three bears.
There are many stories where Jesus does heal people, body and heart. There are examples of him eating with sinners, talking with prostitutes, teaching Pharisees, healing gentiles, including children, and forgiving many. Unpacking those stories takes enough energy without creating new ones.
Besides, not knowing exactly where Mary got the perfume probably is okay. It puts the emphasis on the extravagance of her act, not the nature of her sin.