Friday, March 22, 2013

John 12:1 - 11: A Woman Anoints Jesus with Perfume

You should be reading this the Friday or Saturday before Palm Sunday. 

LINK: John 12:1-11 

182. A Woman Anoints Jesus with Perfume: Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-11

Chronologically, this event happened before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, but the gospel accounts by Matthew and Mark place it here and can only be explained as a flashback. Some commentators believe it was put here in the Matthew and Mark accounts in order to contrast the worship of Mary with the hostility of the religious leaders or to show why Judas was so interested in obtaining more funds. John’s account is in the correct place chronologically (John 12:1-11).

This post draws Jesus' public ministry to a close. Mary's anointing of Jesus signified her anointing for the coming sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. This is not to be confused with the account in Luke 7:36-50, where the sinful woman anointed Jesus in the house of Simon the Pharisee in Galilee. The anointing in this event is by Mary, probably the sister of Lazarus and Martha, a virtuous woman. Sometimes people are confused because both events happened in the home of a man named Simon, which was a common name in those days.  

It is six days before the Passover. Some gospel harmonies place this day as Friday and some as Saturday before Palm Sunday. People would arrive early because of the large number of pilgrims coming for ritual purification before the feast.  Jesus has just returned from Ephraim and is attending a dinner in Lazarus' honor at Simon the leper's house (Jesus had probably healed him). 

It was unusual for a woman to be at the table with guests. The flask contained .5 liter or a pint of pure nard imported from the mountains of East India. It was only opened on special occasions. Even though anointing of special guests was customary at wedding feasts, the costly perfume would have been poured on the head of a king and not on the head (Matthew and Mark) and feet (John) of an upstart teacher like Jesus. 

Judas objected, but that was because he had been dipping in the money box! Jesus knew all that though (John 2:24, 25; 6:64). The Matthew and Mark accounts say it was "some disciples" and "some" who were indignant, but John says it was Judas specifically. 

Jesus told them to leave Mary alone because she was anointing Him for burial. There is an obvious contrast between Judas' secret greed and Mary's open and giving sacrifice. 

The John account adds that a large crowd gathered to see Jesus and Lazarus whom the religious leaders were also planning to kill. 

If you are reading this on Friday, tomorrow is a Sabbath day before Palm Sunday. Rest or start reading ahead because the next week will be quite a bit of reading.


I once did something really crazy. I took my most expensive and favorite perfume and poured it over my feet. The fragrance was lovely, but I wanted to feel what it would be like to let go of something that cost me a lot. It was painful (because I am very frugal).

There is something even more costly than perfume. When I studied this passage on August 6, 1982, I wrote in the margin of my study:

 "Giving to God our most precious resource - our whole life." 

Then I wrote the words to a familiar hymn:

"Take my love, My God I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee
Ever, only, all for Thee."
(Francis Havergal, February 1874)


Can you give Him your whole life?


Pray through the whole hymn:

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

Here is the story behind the hymn: 

I went for a lit­tle vi­sit of five days (to Are­ley House). There were ten per­sons in the house, some un­con­vert­ed and long prayed for, some con­vert­ed, but not re­joic­ing Christ­ians. He gave me the pra­yer, “Lord, give me all in this house!” And He just did. Be­fore I left the house ev­ery one had got a bless­ing. The last night of my vis­it af­ter I had re­tired, the gov­ern­ess asked me to go to the two daugh­ters. They were cry­ing, &c.; then and there both of them trust­ed and re­joiced; it was near­ly mid­night. I was too hap­py to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and re­new­al of my own con­se­cra­tion; and these lit­tle coup­lets formed them­selves, and chimed in my heart one af­ter ano­ther till they fin­ished with “Ever, On­ly, ALL for Thee!” 

Havergal Manuscripts

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