Sunday, March 13, 2016

Looking for Some Nard?

This Sunday's Gospel reading is John 12:1-8 and tells us the story of Jesus' feet being anointed by Mary,
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
Nard or spikenard is a fragrance extracted from the root of a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas.

This perfume also appears in the Song of Solomon 1:12 and thus carries a certain romantic connotation,
"While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof."
That was very costly perfume in its day. If one denarius = one day's wages for a field worker in Jesus' era, then the 300 denarii mentioned in John's account would have been one year's wages (no work on the Sabbath). Assuming a field  worker today might earn $10.50/hr (USDA data) and could work 40 hours a week for, lets say, 50 weeks, he/she might be able to earn $21,000 a year. I doubt even the wealthiest people would pay $21,000 for a pound of perfume these days, but there are some perfumes that are priced as high as $1,000,000 per ounce. Checking around, at ABC News, I found "Hermès 24 Faubourg" priced at $1,500 per ounce or $24,000 per pound to be the rough equivalent (in price) to the valuable nard described in John 12. Looking at it in today's dollars, one can understand where Judas is coming from.

Would any of us make that large a sacrifice?

For those of us cheapskates who would probably opt for a less costly alternative or one that is closer to Biblical nard, there is "Pure Spikenard Essential Oil" at 609.08 per pound (16 oz) which is available with the following description,
Botanical Name: Nardostachys jatamansi
Plant Part: Root
Extraction Method: Steam Distilled
Origin: Nepal
Color: Golden yellow to greenish color slightly viscous liquid.
Common Uses: Spikenard Essential Oil is used by aromatherapists for rashes, wrinkles, cuts, insomnia, migraines, and wounds.
Consistency: Medium
Strength of Aroma: Strong Aromatic
Scent: Spikenard Essential Oil has an earthy, harsh wood like smell that is slightly musty.
Cautions: Spikenard Essential Oil should be avoided during pregnancy.
Was Jesus worth it?

He was and is worth more than all the nard in the world.

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