Summary of passages: John 12:1-11: Jesus leaves the village of Ephraim and returns to Bethany 6 days before Passover. A dinner was given for Jesus. Mary washed Jesus’ feet with perfume and her hair. Judas, seeing only wasted money, questioned Mary’s act. Jesus defends her, saying this is intended for his burial. A large crowd came to see Jesus and Lazarus. Plans were made to kill Lazarus as well so his testimony would not convert more to Jesus.
Matthew 26:6-16: While in Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper, a woman came and anointed Jesus with perfume which she poured over his head. The disciples chastised her, saying the perfume should have been sold and given to the poor. Jesus defends the woman, saying she has anointed him in preparation for burial and it was a beautiful thing. Judas agrees to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
Mark 14:3-11: Mark says Passover is only 2 days away and the chief priests are looking for a way to kill Jesus. While Jesus was in Bethany (4 days ago) at the house of Simon the Leper, a woman anointed Jesus with perfume. Some rebuked her for not selling the perfume and giving it to the poor. Jesus says she is anointing him for burial and it was a beautiful thing. Judas went to the chief priests and agree to hand him over to them for money.
3) Part personal question. My answer: She brought what she could to Jesus. She anointed him with what she had. She sacrificed her most prized possession for him. She humbled herself by washing his feet with her hair. She loved him enough to give up what she had. I would like to be more sacrificing for him as well. More giving from the heart.
4) Anger, indignant, wasteful, greed, perhaps jealousy among the disciples and definitely Judas. Jesus defended her actions. Judas’ heart hardens to the point he’s willing to betray Jesus for money.
5) He said she was preparing his body for burial. It was a beautiful act. He says she will always be remembered for it. I’m sure Mary was glowing and felt vindicated. She was probably questioning herself if she was wasting precious perfume, but she followed God, let go of her fears, and did it. Her faith was undoubtedly strengthened and she grew closer to Jesus and God. Others saw Jesus defending a woman (unheard of in ancient times) and took notice. Women are people too. It probably didn’t change their attitudes towards women, but it planted a seed that would grow into our times today. It showed all what was important (the giving out of love) not the gift and what it was worth. It showed how time is precious and an individual (Jesus) needs to feel valued and honored as well. It showed how an act of worship is more important than meeting the human needs of the poor (in this case). It shows how much Jesus wants us as his children to come to him, to honor him, to worship him, to sacrifice everything for him, and to love him with all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds. Jesus first; others’ needs second.
Conclusions: Great lesson! I’ve never really thought about how Jesus defending Mary would impact her and others and how this act of anointing is so much more! Jesus above everything else in our lives. Period. It reminds us Jesus first and the heart is what matters. I love comparing the different accounts and getting different details and remembrances of this event.
End Notes: All 4 Gospels have an account of a woman anointing Jesus. John’s account seems to tell of the same incident recorded in Matthew and Mark that we read while Luke 7:36-50 is probably a different event.
John 12:1-11: This was the last week before the death and burial of Jesus. Almost one-half of John’s Gospel is given to this last week. Matthew used more than 33% of his Gospel to cover that week, Mark nearly 40% and Luke over 25% – seven days of Jesus’ entire life.
This feast is celebrating Lazarus’ rise from the dead. Martha and the other women in attendance would be serving the men. Simon was a common Jewish name at the time. He had once been a leper for he wouldn’t be hosting a dinner if he had not been cured, perhaps even by Jesus himself.
Washing a guest’s feet was not unusual during this time. It was unusual to do this during a meal, with expensive perfume, and with her hair.
Mary’s gift was remarkably humble. When a guest entered the home, usually the guest’s feet were washed with water and the guest’s head was anointed with a dab of oil or perfume. Here, Mary used this precious ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus. She considered her precious ointment only good enough for His feet. Washing another’s feet was considered the job of a slave.
Mary’s gift was remarkably extreme. She used a lot (a pound) of a very costly oil of spikenard. Spices and ointments were often used as an investment because they were small, portable, and could be easily sold. Judas believed this oil was worth 300 denarii (John 12:5), which was worth a year’s wages for a workingman.
Mary’s gift was remarkably unselfconscious. Not only did she give the gift of the expensive oil, she also wiped His feet with her hair. This means that she let down her hair in public, something a Jewish woman would rarely do. She did not care what others would think of her. All she cared about was showering the Lord Jesus with worship and affection.
No one knows exactly what this oil was. All that really matters is that is was very expensive.
We see Mary at Jesus’ feet often (Luke 10:39; John 11:32, 12:3). This is pure devotion.
Judas probably felt shame and that’s why he objected. Her love for Jesus shone bright and his heart was full of darkness for him.
Fun Fact: This is the only place in the New Testament where Judas is mentioned as doing something evil other than his betrayal of Jesus. Judas successfully hid the darkness of his heart from everyone except Jesus. Outward appearances often deceive. Many people have a religious facade that hides secret sin. Great lesson for us!
Mary was extreme in her love for Jesus–what he wants for all of us. She should not have been criticized for it. In the other Gospels, Judas wasn’t alone in this sentiment.
It was probably only later John discovered Judas had been stealing money from Jesus.
Scholars believe it was the very next day that Judas betrayed Jesus as it was recorded in Matthew and Mark.
Spending money at a funeral was not unusual and was expected, making Judas’ objection even more inappropriate.
Matthew and Mark do not record Mary’s name but say she’ll be remembered forever. John records Mary’s name but omits the remembered part. All that matters is Jesus remembers forever.
The chief priests were mostly Sadducees, and the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection. Lazarus was a living example of life after death, and having him around was an embarrassment to their theological system. This was a problem that had to be gotten rid of. When men hate Christ, they hate those whom he has blessed and will seek to destroy them as well. Sin is growing.
What would stop Jesus from raising Lazarus again? Sometimes man is so stupid!
Matthew 26:6-16: The alabaster flask would have had no handles and a long neck which was broken off when the contents were needed. Jewish ladies commonly wore a perfume flask around the neck, and it was so much a part of them that they were allowed to wear it on the sabbath. Picture HERE
How could anything be wasted if it were for Jesus? Nothing is too good for Jesus.
Inappropriate at the moment to object. It wasn’t anything against helping the poor.
Mary probably didn’t fully understand her act and the burial implications. It did not matter. Her love matters.
Spurgeon says of this scene: “I wish we were all of us ready to do some extraordinary thing for Christ – willing to be laughed at, to be called fanatics, to be hooted and scandallized because we went out of the common way, and were not content with doing what everybody else could do or approve to be done.”
Matthew implies this was the final insult to Judas who then went the the priests with his offer of betrayal. What is Judas’ motive? Speculation of course. He was from Kerioth, a city in southern Judea, which would make Judas the only Judean among the other disciples, who were all Galileans. Perhaps he resented the others. Perhaps he wanted a political Messiah. Perhaps he wanted to be on the winning side, the side of the priests. Perhaps he didn’t believe in Jesus. Perhaps he did and thought Jesus too slow in his revelation. Perhaps his feelings were hurt from the rebuke. It doesn’t matter. All we see is greed.
30 pieces of silver would be worth about $25, a small price at the time. Many have sold him out for much less since.
Mark 14:3-11: Some scholars even speculate this oil was a family heirloom that had been passed on from generation to generation as was the custom at the time.
Here we are told she poured it on Jesus’ head. Jesus had just entered Jerusalem and as king needed to be anointed. Did Mary understand this? The disciples obviously didn’t since they protested.
Mary says not one word. Great lesson for us. Actions speak louder.
Do you criticize those who show more devotion to Jesus that you?
Judas the hypocrite: he wasted his entire life.
Mary “did what she could”. That is all the Lord ever asks of us. But be wary of doing less and using this as an excuse.
The word “beforehand” is a signal that this act was planned by Mary. This was not spontaneous. Also, many wonder if Mary actually understood the Lord better than the disciples. Understood he was about to give his life for all instead of denying it like Peter.
Many ask, “What can I do for Jesus?” That is for you to answer. It comes from the heart. Listen and it will tell you exactly what to do for him. No one else can tell you.
This simple act gained Mary fame for eternity. What will yours be?