The Anointing at Bethany

And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”

10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. 12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” — Matthew 26:6-13.

A woman (elsewhere identified as Mary) pours out fragrant oil on Jesus as He is at the table. Facing the disciples’ criticism that the oil could have been sold and the money distributed to the poor, Jesus tells them that He will not be long with them, and that she has done this act in advance for His burial. The fulfilment of His prediction, that her act will be remembered wherever the gospel is preached, is evidenced by the very fact that this incident is contained in the Bible itself.

“the house of Simon the leper” (v.6) — Mary and Martha served the meal (cf. John. 12:1ff.), but it was not at their home (cf. Mark 14:3). It is possible they were somehow related, all being from the same small village, Bethany. Simon was apparently (although not recorded) healed by Jesus earlier.

“a woman” (v.7) — John. 12:3 says it was Mary, the sister of Lazarus. This account is not to be confused with the prostitute of Luke 7:37-39.

“alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil” — This was a white/yellow stone vase from Egypt. The contents were made from an aromatic Indian herb called “nard” or “spikenard” (cf. Song of Songs 1:12; 4:13-14; Mark 14:3; John. 12:3). It was very expensive.

“poured it on His head” — John. 12:3 says that she put the nard on His “feet.” Since this flask contained 12 ounces, or one Roman pound, there was enough to cover His whole body. Once the vial was opened it could not be resealed.

“His disciples were indignant” (v.8) — John 12:4 says it was Judas Iscariot who was upset.

“sold for much” (v.9) — This high price was three hundred denarii (cf. John. 12:5). A denarius was the daily wage of a soldier or laborer. The implication is that Judas was thinking of the needs of the poor. However, he probably wanted some of the money for himself (cf. John 12:6).

“For you have the poor with you always” (v.11) — This was not a callous statement toward poverty, but a recognition of the uniqueness of Jesus’ presence.

“she did it for My burial” (v.12) — Mary was a disciple; maybe she understood more than the Apostles! This perfume was used to anoint the body of the dead before burial (cf. John. 19:40).

“in the whole world” (v.13) — Jesus assumed His gospel (Matthew uses the term for Jesus’ actions in Matt. 4:23; 9:35; and Jesus uses the term in Matt. 24:14; 26:13) would be preached everywhere (cf. Matt. 24:9,14,32; 28:19-20). This fulfills the OT universal predictions (especially Isaiah, i.e., 2:1-4; 42:6; 49:6; 51:4-5; 56:7)!

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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