There is an intriguing story from the final days of Jesus’ life, that relates a moment when one of the many Marys anointed his feet using some staggeringly expensive perfume, causing a embarrassed debate amongst his disciples. John’s account of the incident states that the perfume was worth a year’s wages, and identifies Judas as the disciple who questioned whether it would have been better for the perfume to be sold and the proceeds given to the poor.
I find myself to be firmly on Judas’ side in this. Surely, to pour such an extravagance over Jesus’ feet was a pointless waste of resources which could have been used to much better effect elsewhere.
Jesus, however, defended Mary - boldly and strongly. And so I find my own attitude to be lovingly rebuked, along with Judas.
The story shows Jesus to be a man who is very comfortable in his own skin. Most of us would be hideously embarrassed to have someone attending to our feet in the middle of a dinner party, but Jesus seems untroubled.
Despite the moral outrage being expressed, Jesus allowed Mary to be herself, and to proceed with the action that she, in her own wisdom, had chosen. He made no attempt to control her, or correct or redirect her actions.
This is a consistent theme throughout Jesus' life. He did not attempt to control people, or tell them how they should behave. He allowed people to follow the paths that they have chosen, and continued to love them. Even on the last day of his life, Jesus did not interfere with the actions of the high priests, Pontius Pilate or Herod. He let them be themselves, even though that would lead to his death.
The history of religion (including Christianity) is very much a history of control. Religion regulates and restricts people’s lives, telling them what they may or may not do. Yet Jesus does not. He defended Mary’s choice - outrageously extravagant though it was - and commended her for it.
Our religions seek to limit and control our choices in so many ways, but God - it seems - loves for us to be lovingly and generously ourselves.