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Jesus Anointed at Bethany

Mark 14.3-9
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Jesus calls this anointing a beautiful thing. It is also recorded in Matthew and John. Luke records another instance of anointing, and Jesus was likely anointed often as a sign of hospitality. John tells us the woman is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Simon may be their father who had been healed of leprosy. The nard that Mary pours on Jesus is very expensive—worth about a year’s wages—and likely a precious family heirloom. Women would not normally be present when men were dining except serving the meal, but Mary approaches Jesus as he is reclining and anoints his head, likely his whole body, since his feet are mentioned elsewhere. The posture of dining was reclining with one’s head propped on the left hand while eating with the right hand.

Those present were angry and snarled at the extravagance seeing it as a waste of what could have helped the poor. It was customary for Jews to help the poor especially on holy days. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 15.11 making the point that they could help the poor anytime but that this woman had shown Jesus loving kindness as he was about to die. Is it possible that this woman understood better than any of the disciples that Jesus would suffer and die and rise again to deliver us? She poured out the nard on Jesus as Jesus was about to pour out his blood for many. When the gospel is proclaimed around the world her act of devotion is remembered.

Are you a cheerful giver?
How do you show Jesus your love?

Blessings,
Anna
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