Act of Humility (Read: John 12:1-11)

By: Travis Stockelman

When was the last time you saw an amazing example of sacrificial love for Christ? For some of us, the first thing that comes to mind are missionaries who make great sacrifices to spread the message of the Gospel. Others may immediately think of a person such as Mother Teresa, who spent her life caring for those in the greatest need. Others may think of an individual who had a promising career in a high-paying field, and who gave this up to go spread the Gospel. Each of these are examples of sacrificial love for Christ. In today’s reading, we see another example of sacrificial love.

In this narrative, a woman named Mary pours an expensive perfume over the feet of Jesus and wipes them with her hair. At first, this may seem weird to us, until we understand the customs of the day. First, it should be said that nard was an expensive perfume. The vial of nard that Mary poured over the feet of Jesus was probably imported from India. Because it came from such a distance, it was incredibly expensive. It would be difficult to afford an ounce of this perfume. Mary likely poured somewhere between 12 and 16 ounces of this perfume on the feet of Jesus. Judas Iscariot was technically right when he said that the perfume that Mary poured on Jesus’s feet was worth a year’s wages. Can you imagine someone today making a sacrifice of $47,060 (the median salary in the United States) for Christ?

What Mary did was costly, and not just financially. In addition to costing her about a year’s worth of wages, this act of devotion was an act of humility. You see, it was common for individuals to have their feet washed when they were guests in another person’s home. However, this was a menial task reserved for the lowest of the slaves in the household. Mary chose to take this task on herself. She did not delegate it to another individual. Rather, she humbled herself and washed the feet of Jesus with possibly the most expensive thing that she owned.

After washing the feet of Jesus with the perfume, however, Mary continued to humble herself to show her love and devotion to Christ. Mary then let her hair down and washed her Lord’s feet with them.

This would have been frowned upon by any religious leaders and Pharisees who were present. To do something like this to a man could carry very negative connotations. Mary was willing not only to wash Jesus’ feet with the most expensive thing she owned and humble herself to wash His feet, but she was also willing to risk being shamed in the eyes of others to show her dedication to Christ.

In the end, Christ praised Mary for the way in which she showed her love for Him, even rebuking one of His disciples in the process. We should each take Mary as an example in the manner in which we show our love for Christ. What have you given up to show your love for Christ? What have you risked to show your love for Christ? As we proceed further into the Lent season, let us think about these things.

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