We loved you more

Published 8:41 pm Sunday, October 15, 2023

It happened on Christmas Eve the year after my father passed to the Lord. My mom was admitted that night to a hospital in the southeast, diagnosed with Stage-IV breast cancer. Her oncologist, Dr. Steven Jubelirer, sat beside her bed, gently telling her that she would die within the year. 

My mom’s radiation oncologist was more precise. He told me to get her into hospice—that she would be dead within two months. 

I was always close to my parents, but the death of my brother when I was young forged a tighter bond.

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What I’m telling you is that I couldn’t lose both at once. People die from heartbreak. My dearest friend’s mother died in her sleep. That was on the night she buried her husband. 

Dr. Jubelirer is Jewish, and I am a Baptist minister. We took turns praying together for my mom, what he called “saying the blessing.”

Doctors know one another and when she needed a different specialist, he would ask, and no doctor refused him. But each looked at her records and said, “She should be dead.” One added, “Just let her die.” 

My mom wanted to live. And Dr. Jubelirer treated her like she was his mom, making sure she had the best of everything, even when insurance companies put up a fight.

She eventually did pass to the Lord. It was during Christmas week. No, not the following Christmas. Nor the next one. Nor the next. My mom lived four years. God gave us miracle after miracle. 

After she was gone, I told Dr. Jubelirer what I feel certain is true. Many people absolutely love him. But I added, “We loved you more.” 

John wrote such a story in his Gospel. In fact, you won’t realize what occurred unless you do the math. Here’s the scene, what many call “Mary washing Jesus’ feet.” But that’s not what happened. Not even close.

“Therefore, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a dinner there, and Martha was serving; and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very expensive perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas … said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii…’ (and) … Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone…’” (John 12:1-7) 

Understand that Jesus would have been given water when He arrived to wash the dust and dirt from His feet. Jesus was now eating dinner. His feet were clean—they didn’t need to be washed.

Scholars call Mary’s act “the anointing of Jesus,” since the event happened days before His crucifixion. But Mary knew nothing of the deadly political fervor swirling around Jesus. This moment was her first chance to say something to Him.

What was that?

John tells us. 

First, John says, “Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” So, we know Mary was deeply grateful to Jesus for restoring the life of her brother.

Second, look at the price and weight of the oil. A Roman pound was nearly 12 ounces in weight, which translates into eight fluid ounces of oil. 

Three hundred denarii was the yearly wage of a laborer. By today’s standards, its value was at least $15,000 and maybe over $50,000, depending on whether it was a common or skilled worker. A lot of money.

Here’s the thing, a tablespoon of that costly oil was all Mary needed to cover Jesus’ feet. She had sixteen times that amount. If you keep rubbing oil into your skin, it will absorb. And that’s apparently what Mary did, filling not just that room but the whole house of this wealthy family with fragrance.

So, John is telling us that it took a good while. And don’t think she wiped away the excess with her hair. Try it, rub oil into your hand and then run someone’s hair over it. The hair doesn’t absorb the oil. Moreover, many types of hair feel like silk, gliding against the skin.

Mary is not washing and drying Jesus’ feet. She is pouring out her love by working precious oil into them and then continuing that act of love by caressing his feet with her lovely hair. 

It’s truly a beautiful moment. One John carefully hid in his Gospel. John did that with many things, which I’ll explain more on another day. But know this:

The day Mary gave Jesus her very expensive oil, she spoke for her family, grateful for the life of her brother. She was saying as I said to Dr. Jubelirer, “Many love you, but we love you more.”

Make a point to express gratitude. Both to those who have helped you and to God for His great blessings. 

The Rev. Mathews, BA, MDiv, JD, is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of the suspense-filled mystery, Emerald Coast: The Vendetta. Contact her at Hello@RAMathews.com

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