Scriptures

Jesus Anointed At Bethany Again

Introduction

‘While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.’ Matthew 26:6-7

Don’t get confused!

As we approach this text, many people make the mistake of mixing this Simon, with the Simon we find in Luke’s account in Luke 7:36-50. The Simon referred to here in Mathew’s account is the Simon who had been cured of leprosy, and possibly out of thankfulness hosted a dinner in his home in honour of Jesus.

Robertson in his commentary says the following:

‘This anointing has nothing in common with that given by Luke, except the fact of a woman anointing the Saviour’s feet, and the name Simon, which was common. The former was in Galilee; this is at Bethany near Jerusalem. There the host despised the woman who anointed; here, her brother is one of the guests, and her sister an active attendant. There the woman was a sinner, a notoriously bad woman; here it is the devout Mary who ‘sat at the Lord’s feet and heard his words,’ months before. There the host thought it strange that Jesus allowed her to touch him; here the disciples complained of the waste. There the Saviour gave assurance of forgiveness, here of perpetual and world-wide honour. Especially notice that here the woman who anoints is anticipating his speedy death and burial, of which at the former time he had never distinctly spoken. In view of all these differences, it is absurd to represent the two anointings as the same, and outrageous on such slender grounds to cast reproach on Mary of Bethany.’

Who was Present On This Occasion?

‘Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. ‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’ John 12:1-8

In John’s account he tells us that Jesus’ feet were also anointed and tells us that the ointment was as ‘nard’, it was extracted from the dried root and stems of the spikenard plant and had the monetary value of ‘a year’s wages’.

He also tells us that the main character who objected to her using it was Judas, and he mentions that Mary was the one wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair. Lazarus who was raised from the dead was a guest and the woman mentioned in Matthew’s account is Mary, the sister of Lazarus who seemed to understand what she was doing better than all those present and Martha who is serving as we often find her doing. We can also conclude that John himself was present as he makes reference to the aroma which filled the house.

As Mary was the one who poured it on Jesus’ head, this tell us that she knew something significant was about to happen. She gave the best of what she had to offer, and her respect of Jesus shows us that she accepted Jesus as the Christ and Son of God.

‘When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. ‘This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.’ Matthew 26:8-9

It’s clear that Judas was the treasurer and John tells us that he wasn’t really concerned about the poor but more concerned with lining his own pocket, John 12:6. Matthew and Mark both tell us that Judas found some support among the twelve for his objection, it seems that they too were more concerned with the value of material things. Nothing much has changed today, we still have the poor amongst us.

‘Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.’ Matthew 26:10

It’s also clear from this passage that Judas spoke directly to Mary about the waste and I’m sure they would have stepped in to stop her from wasting any more oil of Jesus, if Jesus hadn’t have stopped them. I love it when Jesus speaks up and defends the innocent as He does here, He even pays her a high compliment.

Mary was more concerned about showing her love and appreciation of Jesus than the others were, and Jesus wasn’t about to stop her. Nothing was too valuable in her eyes for Jesus.

‘The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.’ Matthew 26:11

You can always tell its election time in the UK as the political parties begin to promise many good things to come, especially for the poor. In our world today, there are many countries who are really poverty struck, we read about it in the newspaper and see it in front of our eyes on the TV screen. We only have to walk down our city centres to see the hundreds of homeless people sleeping rough on the streets.

I guess the question is, what are we doing about it? What are we doing to help these people?

We will always have the poor among us which means there will always be an opportunity for us to help meet some of those needs, Deuteronomy 15:11 / Mark 14:7 / John 12:8 / Galatians 2:10. However, the Bridegroom wouldn’t always be in the physical presence of the disciples. The occasion, therefore, justified the use of the precious ointment.

‘When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.’ Matthew 26:12

When we think about the disciples, they have been with Jesus for over three and half years now but never seem to understand anything Jesus spoke about to them concerning His upcoming death, Mary on the other hand seems to have this great insight as what is about to happen to Jesus.

I can imagine the heartbreak in Jesus’ mind when all this was going on, the disciples didn’t get it because they were too busy arguing amongst themselves as to which one of them would be the greatest, Mark 10:35-45 / Luke 22:24 / John 13. I believe that men like to look at the facts and the figures, while women seem to be more sensitive to what is going on around them.

‘Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her’. Matthew 26:13

What a marvellous acclamation Jesus gives Mary here, it’s one of those prophecies which is often overlooked and dismissed. This humble act of servitude that Mary performed would become the memorial of her love for Jesus, Hebrews 11:4. She had the right spiritual attitude by giving Jesus the very best she had to offer, which is a lesson we can all learn from.

Her name will go down in history because of this one moment with the Christ, as the Gospel is spread throughout the world, her name and her deed will follow along beside.

Conclusion

It’s so easy to focus on the negatives in this story, we could focus on Judas and his attitude, we could focus on why the disciples seem to agree with Judas. But I’m wondering, what will people say about us when we leave this world?

What will be written on your gravestone?

‘Here lies a Christian who loved God so much, they always gave God the very best of what they had to offer.’

‘Here lies a Christian who cared for the poor so much, they continually gave food, clothing and drink to the poorest on our streets.’

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

Ephesians 2:8

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