Jesus Christ Superstar is a 1970’s rock opera about the last days of Jesus. I listened to the record album over and over when I was in my last year of High School. The Opera is interpretive, but then so are the gospels, and thus controversial. Yet it is hugely accurate to much of the orthodox gospels. Thanks to Spotify, I recently downloaded the album to take a trip down memory lane. My sweetheart and myself listen to the album this weekend in a car trip but her background in the Bible is rather weak, so we would stop the songs occasionally so I could explain to her the various stories of Jesus.
In the Opera’s catchy tune “Everything’s Alright“, Judas chastises Mary Magdalene (and Jesus) when Mary anoints Jesus in oil. Wiki quotes the various Gospel versions here.
In the opera, Judas’s chastisement goes as follows:
Woman your fine ointment – brand new and expensive
could have been saved for the poor
Why has it been wasted, we could have raise maybe
three hundred silver pieces or more.
People who are hungry, people who are starving,
matter more than your feet and hair.
My sweetheart wanted to know what this “oil” thing was all about, so to help explain, I told this story from my Asian travels in the mid-seventies:
When I was 19 years-old I hitchhiked from Europe to India. My first long stop was in Istanbul Turkey where I looked up the family of a Turkish friend I made in German. My friend had told me that if I ever made it to Turkey (as he’d stayed in Germany), I should look up his family. The father was a taxi driver and no English was spoken in the house, but the 14 year-old younger son of my friend did speak fair German, so we could communicate.
Soon after arriving in their house, I had to go to the bathroom where I was shocked to find there was no toilet paper. I opened the door and asked the boy what I should do and he instructed me how they wiped with their hands using a pot of water. Well, that would be the method I used for the rest of that year as I crossed Asia. But it was clean, I washed my hands well and then again joined the family. In the living room, on meeting the rest of the family the mother came up to me and told me to put my cupped hands out to receive something from a jar. The son looked at my puzzled face and nodded to signal it was OK. The mother then poured an oil into my hands and told me to wipe it all over my face and hair. Again the son coached me that it was OK. I was then drenched in a heavy perfumed oil. It was actually rather pleasant. And apparently such a habit of treating honored guests this way has existed for millennia in the MidEast.