The woman awoke with a start as the day began, remembering what she was planning to do. She glanced over at the gift sitting on the table. Even from here, she could detect the fragrance of the perfume. She got out of bed and started her daily chores, but she couldn’t concentrate. Her eyes kept wondering back to the bottle sitting on the table.
Finally, it was time. The woman put on her shawl and grabbed the gift, cradling it carefully next to her body like a newborn child. As she walked, she thought, This is a crazy idea! She wasn’t quite sure why she was doing this. She was well aware of how much her gift cost. She felt, somehow, that this was the right thing to do. Maybe, deep down in her heart, she believed all this man had said and done. She glanced around. Were those people staring at her, or was it her imagination? Perhaps she should just turn around and forget about it. No, I must do this! she thought. The woman knew that if she backed out now, she would forever wonder if he would have accepted her gift. She couldn’t use the perfume herself. If she didn’t do this, the perfume would be a bitter reminder of what could have been. With a new resolve, she continued walking, doubts sill lingering in her mind.
Arriving at the house, her heart fell. She was hoping there wouldn’t be many people. The house was packed. So much for being subtle, she thought as she entered the house. The men stared as she fell to the guest of honor’s feet. Her heart was racing. What was she thinking? Surly this man didn’t have any time for her. He was, after all, the most popular man in this town. No, make that the inhabited earth! Everyone had heard of this man’s deeds. Who did she think she was to enter into his presence?
She wept as she broke the bottle over the man’s head. The fragrance of the perfume filled the air. She stared at his feet while the costly perfume trickled down. She took a piece of her hair and hesitated for a moment. What would this man do? Would he recoil in horror? Would he rebuke her? Would he, perhaps, accept her gift? Taking her own hair, the woman started to wipe the man’s feet. He didn’t jump back. He didn’t rebuke her. Surely everyone was staring at her, but she couldn’t stop now. She wasn’t sure what overcame her, but she wept and kissed his feet over and over again.
One of the men finally found his voice. “Why is this woman wasting this perfume?” She smiled weakly at the stunned silence that had overtaken the house as she began her deed.
“Do you not know who this woman is?” another asked with indignation.
“She should have sold this and given the money to the poor,” a third said.
The mysterious woman continued to weep, pretending to ignore the comments, but they were right. What business did she have even being in the same room as this man? She kicked herself for not selling the perfume and giving it to the poor. Why didn’t she think of that? Surely that would have been a better use of her wages.
But then the man spoke. “Do not bother this women. What she has done is a good thing, and it will be remembered even after her death. You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” Then, he took her chin into his hand and turned her face towards his. She looked at him through tear filled eyes as he began to speak “Mary. Your sins are forgiven.” Mary stood in stunned silence. How did he know her name? Did this man know everything she had done? This man couldn’t have the power to forgive sins. But could it be? Could this man be who He claimed to be? “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Mary smiled. She gathered some of the pieces of the broken alabaster jar and walked out of the house, weeping and taking in the sweet smell of her hair. She would remember this day forever; the day when Jesus, the son of God, forgave the sins of Mary, a worthless sinner. She would never forget the fragrance of that perfume as long as she lived.
Story and scripture quotations adapted from Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:37-39, 44-50, John 12:1-8 (NASB)