A Perspective on Wednesday

I pour the wine while I hold my breath.

It’s been some time since we had a gathering around the table like this. Simon, my master, was a leper before. But one day, he returned clean, with one name on his lips: Jesus, the miracle worker of Nazareth, the Messiah, and a stranger.

My master has invited him and many guests into our home. I listen to their conversations as I fill their cups: they talk of Passover and the feast to come, the stranger’s plans. I fill my master’s cup again with a quick bow and leave. But I’m stopped outside the door by Rebecca, Simon’s daughter, whispering to her sister, Mary, who clutches an alabaster jar.

“Tell her she can’t go in there,” Rebecca says in a hush. “Tell my sister that the priests will not allow a woman to anoint a man and not with the most expensive perfume in our father’s house.”

Rebecca looks at me pointedly as I see inside the alabaster jar: a pound of pure nard. I’ve never seen such riches before.

“Mistress, surely my master would hesitate at the cost?” I say quietly.

Rebecca nods her head, pleading, and I hear Mary say, “Father returned to us because of the Messiah. Nothing is too high a cost.”

Just outside the threshold, I watch as Mary walks in. Then, she gets down on her knees in front of the reclining man. He stops speaking as she breaks the jar and pours the perfume over his head. The men around them object, scoffing.

“Girl, why this waste of perfume?” says one guest.

“You could have sold that perfume and received more than a year’s wages. You could have given it to the poor,” says another, shaking his head at Mary. Jesus looks sharply at the ones questioning.

“Leave her alone,” he says to one, then looks at the other. “Why are you bothering her?

She has done a beautiful thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”

He looks at Mary again, lifting her chin to look in her eyes. I gasp. “She did what she could,” he says. “She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”

A hush falls over the table.

“I tell you the truth: wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

I hold my breath, look down at my empty pitcher, and return to the kitchen.

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