"Leave her alone. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." (John 12:7-8)

Jesus said this in answer to Judas, after Mary had begun massaging Jesus' feet with scented oil (likely frankincense - often used during those times as a soothing oil and as a perfume). Jesus had walked to Bethany, so it was likely his feet were sore. She used her hair to spread the oil.

Mary has often been referred to as a prostitute, but there is no foundation for this. From the scriptures we find Mary and her sister Martha as well as their brother Lazarus - whose body had been revived - were all students of Jesus. This is clear from the following:
And after she [Martha] had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. (John 11:28-29)
Notice Martha referred to Jesus as "the teacher." Jesus had many, many students and disciples. While ecclesiastical sectarian teachers have focused on the "twelve," we know from this and other texts that Jesus had many more students and disciples. Luke 10:1 and 10:17 states that Jesus sent out 72 of his disciples, for example.

So Mary, one of Jesus' students, was simply washing the feet of her spiritual teacher with an essential oil. This was a custom from the oldest of times, as washing and massaging the teacher's feet was seen as not only pleasing to the teacher along with building humility for the student; it also had a practical purpose, because most spiritual teachers walked through the countryside preaching.

So this act by Mary was not some kind of sexual gesture as many have interpreted. It was a simple act of devotion: It was service rendered to the spiritual teacher, the representative of God. This makes it service to the Supreme Being.

This was confirmed by Jesus' statement, made in response to Judas' comment, who said:
"Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." (John 12:5)
We see by Jesus' statement that service to God's representative is seen as a priority over charity to the poor. Why?

God's representative comes to save humanity from suffering all together. How so? Each of us, rich or poor, is suffering because we are wearing and identifying with these temporary physical bodies, trying desperately trying to find happiness where there is none. This physical world is not a place of happiness. It is a place of suffering.

Our bodies suffer from the time we exit the womb. We come out of the womb writhing in pain, and screaming. For the first five years there are so many pains, symptomized by so much crying. Once in childhood, we suffer from growing pains, peer pressure and the struggle for attention. As teenagers we suffer from lonliness and trying to fit in. As adults we now must work hard, and report to a boss we don't like - if we are able to find work. We struggle to pay for food, housing and clothing. Most of the world is too poor and can't afford much. And then, we get sick, we get older and older, and then we can't work anymore. We must rely on others. Then our bodies die. Where is the happiness in this? Where is the fulfillment?

And while we keep looking for enjoyment despite all the suffering, we find no fulfillment here.

Why? Is God a mean God who just wants to make us suffer?

No. We are not these physical bodies. They are like vehicles we temporarily drive. As such, our suffering comes from our identifying with these physical bodies.

We are here in this physical world because we wanted to be away from the Supreme Being. We wanted to be happy without our relationship with God. Because God gives us the freedom to love Him or not, we can always choose not to. For those who chose not to love God, God created the physical world so we could ignore Him for awhile and chase our dreams.

But should the Supreme Being have made a perfect abode for us to live away from Him? What would that say about His love for us? God knows we will only be happy when we are loving and caring for Him in our original position within the spiritual world. So why would He make a perfect abode only to see us continue to be lonely and empty - as even the wealthiest, most powerful people are - without our relationship with God?

In other words, the Supreme Being made the physical world with multiple purposes. One is to be a place we could ignore Him for awhile and pretend to be someone we are not.

The other purpose is to be a place of rehabilitation.

This physical world is designed as a place of learning. It slowly and methodically, through cause and effect - the law of consequences - teaches us about love, caring, and who we ultimately are. Even those who resist the Supreme Being by claiming He doesn't exist can learn these lessons, slowly and gradually, through action and reaction. These reactions take place not on us directly, but upon our temporary physical bodies. 

It is like playing a computer game where our icon is subjected to various challenges and we must learn ways to avert those as we learn the game. Our computer icon may get hurt during the game, but the person playing the game - sitting at the computer - is untouched.

Eventually, as we learn more and more, we rise to a state of higher intelligence.

Those who have risen to a level of higher intelligence become faithful in the existence of the Supreme Being. While God remains hidden to our physical vision - on purpose - those who maintain a confidence in His existence and desire to return to their relationship with Him are guided back to Him.

The Supreme Being uses His loving confidential servants as His representatives to bring those who are ready to return to Him back. He sends His representative to teach us about Him, and re-introduce us to Him. In other words, the Supreme Being sends His representative - in this case Jesus - to save us by bringing us back to Him.

This activity is far more important than helping the poor. Yes, it is good for us to help out our brothers and sisters whose temporary bodies are in a troubled state. But we can only do so much. We cannot prevent the suffering of the physical body. The physical body was intended for a life of consequences.

This was Jesus' point. Using our lives in the service of God - trying to please Him and His representative - is the highest activity. This is our natural function. The Supreme Being created us as His playmates - to care for Him and serve Him lovingly - out of volition. In the spiritual world, we can serve God directly and personally.

But while we are still rehabilitating ourselves, we can also begin to re-develop our relationship with God and begin to serve Him. We can sing and praise His Holy Names. We can pray to Him. We can offer things to Him. We can think of Him. These are the activities that will help us re-develop our original relationship with Him, and eventually, make it so we can leave behind the suffering of the physical world and these temporary identities.

And this is why Jesus taught:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)


(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian institutional influence, see the Devotional Translation  - translated from the original Greek texts.)