Jesus anointed at Bethany

This is written by Matt Coombs. He is married to Pip and is on the leadership team at St Mary's with responsibility for all things pastoral, small groups and students.

Mark 14:1-11

14 Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 'But not during the festival,' they said, 'or the people may riot.'

3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, 'Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor.' And they rebuked her harshly.

6 'Leave her alone,' said Jesus. 'Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.'

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.


A woman anoints Jesus with very expensive perfume (3), the disciples complain that she's being wasteful (4-5), Jesus defends the woman saying 'She has done a beautiful thing to me.' (6-9).
What a waste!
Among first century Jews it was widely thought that when someone had a lot of money, it was good to share with the needy. No surprise that the disciples are angry, right? What a waste - this woman has just thrown away more than a year's wages. They don't get it. They don't know why she's done such an outrageous thing.
In the Old Testament; prophets, kings and priests were anointed with oil to mark them and inwardly strengthen them for their calling. When the women poured the oil onto Jesus' head it is a great confirmation of his calling from God the Father. Jesus was doubly anointed, first by the Spirit at the beginning of his ministry and again here by oil for the final, hardest few days Jesus was to undertake.
'She has done a beautiful thing to me'
The sacrificial love this woman lavishes upon Jesus points us to the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross. "Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."(9). Jesus connects this moment with the gospel. Her extravagant act of devotion and sacrifice mirrors what Jesus has done for us.

God has been extravagant to me.

He has lavished on me the riches of his grace.

He has given to me what I don't deserve, and more than enough for me to enjoy.

How should I respond to this grace and extravagance shown to me? With devotion, sacrifice and extravagant worship.

May Jesus say of all of us: 'They have done a beautiful thing to me.'


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