much revered, highly priced
A Clever Verse for Context
Mary took a pound of costly (πολύτιμος) perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3)
The entire scene of the dinner party at the beginning of John 12 seems to slows down when Mary enters with her costly (πολύτιμος) perfume. We read in detail what kind of perfume she uses both content and cost, and the manner in which she applies it to Jesus’ feet. The perfume is not the only thing of great worth here. Time is scarce. It will not belong now until Jesus is crucified. Jesus himself will assert more and more urgently the nearness of his hour. And yet, Mary is just as lavish with her time as she is with her perfume. There is no hurry in the time she takes honoring Jesus. We talk about how God’s time is different from our experience of seconds, minutes, and years. Here Mary gives us a glimpse of holy time: a moment that is both a brief reprieve from the race to the cross, and an everlasting respite for the faithful.
In the reading from John the word πολύτιμος refers to the great (πολύ) worth or value (τιμή) of the perfume. The primary meaning for τιμή however has more to do with character than monetary value. It means worship, esteem, or honor attributed to persons of rank or the gods.
Clever Questions for Further Reflection
When have you experienced respite during a time of pain and difficulty?
How was that time different from the experiences around it?
What and who do you consider to be of great value? What makes those things and/or people important?
A Clever Prayer to Close
How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.