Mary curled dusty feet beneath her, lingering even though she knew Martha needed help with the meal. If the gurgle of her stomach was any indication, suppertime was near. But nothing else mattered when she was close to the teacher.
Time evaporated in his presence.
Martha hustled by, frowning at her sister with apparent disapproval. The siblings were often at odds, yet Mary loved her fiercely. If only Martha would set aside her scurrying long enough to listen, maybe she would understand.
Jesus mesmerized Mary. But not in the way people thought. She knew what the whispering lips of Bethany were saying: That she was running after him in hopes of snagging a husband. Nasty comments about why a man of his advanced years was not yet betrothed had reached her ears. And how pitiful she was, setting her cap when he clearly paid her no heed.
She ignored the wagging tongues. Her interest in Jesus had nothing to do with the possibility of a future matrimonial. It was the things he said. Miracles performed. Even when she didn't understand, his teachings were like warm oil that soaked into her heart.
But Mary's soul was troubled. Uneasy thoughts about the teacher simmered below the surface. Something was amiss--she could sense it. Fear wrapped around her like a dread--filled veil. Her emotions jumbled together: Sorrow, fear, loss. And panic.
The horror of a few weeks ago had faded even though Mary still shuddered as she remembered the events leading to her brother's death. A frantic message had been sent for Jesus to come quickly--Lazarus was dying. But he had arrived too late.
The town still buzzed about how Jesus had called Lazarus out of the cave.
Everything had turned out fine and life had never been sweeter. So why was her spirit so disturbed? If only she could shake off the anxiety that dampened her joy like the towel tossed aside as the men washed. She quickly snatched it up and hurried off to help Martha.
Martha-like bustling didn't distract Mary for long. Fear returned to grip her heart as she wandered the house. On a whim, she stepped into the sleeping area, seeking solace in the quiet. Family heirlooms dotted the room, offering comfort like old friends. She fingered them lovingly before carefully returning each to their rightful place.
Until she reached the alabaster container of burial oil.
She stared at the little jar as visions of her ancestors, trudging across the desert, flitted through her mind. The translucent gypsum had been transported all the way from India like precious cargo on a secret mission.
Destined for this night.
Such an impulsive action would create a stir but hadn't she been the object of clacking tongues before?
She returned to the gathering, cradling the glimmering object. Conversation ceased as she kneeled before Jesus, cracked open the vessel, and proceeded to lovingly massage his feet with the priceless burial essence. The spicy aroma from far-away lands drifted among them as she wiped away the excess with her hair and the crowd gaped in silence.
But not for long.
Grumbling rumbled like distant thunder and soon the hiss of derogatory comments became a full-blown storm. "She just wasted oil that could have been sold and the money given to the poor," cried Judas, "Surely, it was worth a year's wages!"
Undeterred, she continued to anoint him in preparation for death as he nodded in approval. She was startled when he rebuked the crowd, saying that the poor would always be among them but he would not. He went on to praise her sacrificial gift, commending her for an act of worship that could not be contained.
Cheeks ablaze, Mary started to object--all she had done was follow her heart. But as his gentle eyes sought hers, the words died on her tongue. The chaos around them continued as she received his silent message.
And her spirits begin to lift.
Suddenly she understood: the compulsion to anoint the teacher, his scorn for the crowd, and the comment about his leaving them.
It all made sense.
They were about to step into a new season but just as the fragrance of the oil lingered, he would remain with them.
Note: This story was created from events recorded in the book of John. The intention was to present what could have occurred and is purely speculative fiction.
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