"You will always have the poor among you but you will not always have me." (John 12:7-8)

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. "Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "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 12:3-8) 

Was Mary a prostitute?

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. Mary also 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 - who had been revived - were all followers 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 followers. While 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 her spiritual teacher, the representative of God. This makes it service to the Supreme Being.

Was Mary a follower of Jesus?

Yes, and this is why Mary served Jesus. This is why she massaged and washed his feet. Remember that Jesus often walked barefoot as he traveled the country preaching. He would spend days walking over tough terrain. So washing his feet was not just a luxury for Jesus: It was something needed to soothe his feet so he could continue.

The fact that this was service to Jesus was confirmed by Jesus after Judas said:
"Why wasn't this perfume [ointment] sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." (John 12:5)
The translation of the Greek word μύρον (myron) to perfume is not appropriate. Perfume is used to make someone smell nice. The Greek word actually means "ointment" according to the lexicon. Such an ointment was typically used to help soothe and heal the body. Essential oils of frankincense, myrrh and eucalyptus were often used in these ointments. These provided the means to speed healing and reduce pain.

The indicates clearly that Mary's purpose was to rub the ointment onto Jesus' feet to soothe them.

Why was this more important than charity?

We see by Jesus' statement that the service to God's representative is seen as a priority over charity to the poor. Why?

From a practical standpoint - rubbing the ointment onto Jesus' feet soothed them. This allowed Jesus to continue doing his preaching efforts. Remember that Jesus walked the countryside often in bare feet. If he couldn't walk, he couldn't reach the people and help save them with his teachings.

God's representative comes to save humanity from suffering altogether. 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 loneliness 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 can we find 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 a while 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 a while and pretend to be someone we are not.

What is the purpose of this world?

This physical world is a place of rehabilitation. This 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 begin to trust in the existence of the Supreme Being. While God remains hidden to our physical vision - on purpose - those who maintain confidence in His existence and desire to return to their relationship with Him are guided back to Him.

How does God communicate with us?

God uses several means to communicate with us. These include through the Holy Spirit within, His messenger, and Scripture. 

These means of communication allow us to check whether the communication is valid. For example, if someone teaches something that contradicts Scripture, then we can know this is false. Or if it doesn't jive with the communication from the Holy Spirit within (which can be gained through prayer) then it shouldn't be trusted.

The Supreme Being uses His messenger 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. This was Jesus' role - to save us by bringing us back to Him.

As Jesus states here, this activity is far more important than helping the poor. Yes, it is good to help our brothers and sisters whose temporary bodies are in a troubled state. But we can only do so much. We cannot prevent all of the sufferings of the physical body.

This was Jesus' point. Using our lives in the service of God is the highest activity of the soul. This is our natural function. The Supreme Being created us as His friends - to exchange a loving relationship 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 pray to Him. We can offer things to Him. We can think of Him. We can sing and praise His Holy Names. 

These are the activities that will help us re-develop our constitutional 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)