¹Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; ²for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.”
³While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head.
⁴But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted?
⁵For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her.
⁶But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me.
⁷For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me.
⁸She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.
⁹Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
¹⁰Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them.
¹¹They were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.
In the previous meditation I mentioned that the anointing that we are told in Mark 14 and the other Gospels do not all speak of the same event, but concern different events in my opinion, and I promised to return to that for a moment.
Well let me now explain why I think so.
Such an incident is also mentioned in Matthew 26:6-13, in Luke 7:36-50, and in John 12:1-8
Matthew 26:2 – Two days before Easter
Mark 14:1 – Two days before Easter
Luke 7:11 – The moment is not mentioned, but probably after the resurrection of the youth at Nain.
John 12:1 – Six days before the Passover – Jesus came six days before the Passover to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had died but raised from the dead.
Matthew 26:6 – In Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper
Mark 14:3 – In Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper
Luke 7:36 – In a Pharisee’s house – And one of the Pharisees asked if He came to eat with him; and when he entered the house of the Pharisee, he lay down.
John 12:1-2 – Presumably in the house of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha – where Lazarus was, who died but whom He raised from the dead. ²Now they prepared a feast for him there, and Martha served him; and Lazarus was one of those reclining with Him.
Matthew 26:7 – A woman
Mark 14:3 – A woman
Luke 7:37 – A woman in that city who was a sinner
John 12:3 – Mary
Matthew 26:7 – An alabaster bottle of very precious ointment
Mark 14:3 – an alabaster bottle of pure, precious spikenard ointment
Luke 7:37 – She brought an alabaster bottle of ointment
John 12:3 – A pound of pure spikenard ointment of very great value
Matthew 26:7 – She Poured It On His Head
Mark 14:3 – After she broke the alabaster bottle, she poured it on His head
Luke 7:38 – Standing behind His feet, she began to wipe His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment.
John 12:3 – Mary anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair
Matthew 26:8 – His disciples
Mark 14:4 – Some
Luke 7:39 – The Pharisee Who Invited Him
John 12:4 – One of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, who would betray Him.
Matthew 26:8 They were indignant and said, Why is this waste?
Mark 14:4-5 – “Some who were indignant said to themselves, What was the use of this waste of the ointment? For it could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor; and they lashed out against her.
Luke 7:39 – When the Pharisee who invited him saw it, he said to himself, This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman it is that touches him, for she is a sinner.
John 12:5-6 – Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor? And this he said, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and managed the purse and carried what was given.
The response of Jesus
But Jesus said to them, Why are you troubling this woman? For she has done a good work on me. You always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. For when she poured this ointment on My body, she did it in preparation for My burial. Verily I say to you, wherever this gospel is to be preached in all the world, there will also be spoken in remembrance of what she has done.
But Jesus said, Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a good work on Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want you can do them good, but you will not always have me. ⁸She did what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for burial. Verily I say to you, wherever this gospel is to be preached in all the world, there will also be spoken in remembrance of what she has done.
Jesus responded to the Pharisee with the parable of the creditor and the two debtors, and forgave the woman her debt
Jesus then said, Let her alone; she has kept it for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.
Here we see that both Matthew and Mark write about the same incident, but that the stories told to us by Luke and John were different occurrences, at different times, with different women, different actions, different critics and different responses from Jesus.
Some additional information
The fragrant spikenard ointment is prepared from an Indian or an Arabian root. A whole bottle of that precious anointing oil cost more than 300 days’ wages.
In the answer, Jesus says that they always have the poor with them.
Jesus here speaks realistically about poverty.
He urges the disciples to “do well”, but not to cherish the utopian dream that they could eradicate it in today’s world (cf. Deuteronomy 15:11).
The inclusion of this story in the written Gospels fulfills Jesus’ prediction that this incident will be told wherever this Gospel will be preached throughout the world.
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