66 – Jesus Annointed

When: Friday evening, March 31, 30 AD
Where: Bethany, Judea
Mark, Matthew, Luke, John,


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It was Friday afternoon, March 31 when Jesus arrived in Bethany, Judea after the dusty trek up from Jericho. Bethany was a village only two miles from Jerusalem [on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives]. Jesus planned to stay with Lazarus and his two sisters this week prior to Passover.

But that evening a leading citizen of Bethany put on a banquet in “honor” of Jesus, and to begin the Sabbath, and he also invited the disciples, which included Lazarus. He was Simon, a Pharisee who had been healed of “leprosy”. Mary, Lazarus’ sister, planned to help serve.

Now Simon was well aware of the concern that the religious leaders had about Jesus, and he choose not to be TOO friendly. Thus he did not offer to have Jesus’ feet washed despite the recently accomplished journey from Jericho, nor did Simon have Jesus’ head anointed with fragrant oil. Simon’s lack of manners verged on being disrespectful.

Mary was grateful for the return of her brother Lazarus from the grave, and when she saw this disrespect, she decided to do something to honor Jesus. Mary went home and got an alabaster vial of aromatic oil called nard. She had some of the precious oil left over from the time when she had prepared Lazarus’ body for burial. When new, the vial contained about twelve ounces of nard.

When she returned to Simon’s house everyone was reclining at table to eat. Mary approached Jesus from behind and stood over his feet. As she stood there she watched her brother Lazarus, also reclining at table, and tears of gratitude welled up in her eyes, ran down her cheeks, and fell to the floor. Some of her tears dropped onto the feet of Jesus.

When she realized what had happened, she knelt down and poured some of the nard on his feet also. Just then her hair, normally carefully controlled, slipped down, brushing Jesus’ feet. Since there was now fragrant oil on her hair anyway, she used her hair like a cloth, to spread the nard over Jesus’ feet. Then Mary stood up, making it look like she had planned every detail, and poured some fragrant oil on Jesus’ head. Then she retreated while the beautiful rich aroma filled the room.

As this had taken place, Jesus had seen a look of disapproval on Simon’s face. Jesus had also heard Judas complain to another disciple that this was a waste of money that could have bought food or bribes to benefit the poor, or even weapons to help the resistance.

Jesus decided to deal first with Judas and the disciples, and then with Simon. So Jesus looked at the disciples and told them that there would always be poor folk, but this was a special moment and he appreciated her sentiment. In fact she had unknowingly anointed him, as others had anointed God’s chosen ones. This gave the disciples something to think about, and excited Judas.

Then Jesus, knowing that Simon disapproved of Jesus allowing an unclean woman to minister to him, got the attention of those at table. Jesus then told Simon a story about two debtors, and at the end asked Simon which would be more grateful to be forgiven; the one that had been forgiven a little debt or the one that had been forgiven a large debt.

‘The one who had been forgiven most’, Simon replied. Then Jesus made his point. Though Mary was not as careful to observe the laws and customs as Simon and the Pharisees were, her intent and her actions would be forever remembered because out of love ‘she honors God and has anointed me’.

After the meal Jesus went to stay at the home of Lazarus. And the next day, the Sabbath, Jesus spent teaching those who came to listen.

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