Summary: With Jesus' death only days away, Mary gives an extravagant gift in gratitude and thanksgiving while the leaders continue to plot Jesus' death and the Passover crowds throw a parade in Jesus' honor.
1 24 2016 “An Anointing, Another Plot, and a Parade” John 12: 1-19
In our last study we saw the Plot of the Pompous High Priest Caiaphas as well as his unknowing but true prophecy in John 11:49-50: "You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." The leaders plotted to put Jesus to Death, and so Jesus no longer walked openly until John 12. This most likely was only been a short period of time because the Passover was near.
Today we begin John 12:1: Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, 5 "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always."
The anointing of Jesus by Mary is related in Matt. 26:6-12 and Mark 14:3-9 with some variations. There is another anointing recounted in Luke 7:35-50 which is a different incident. For our study, I am not going to make a synoptic comparison of the event, but rather, examine what John tells us. John is known for his historical, chronological consistency, so there is no reason to think that his account of the anointing at Bethany is anything other than accurate.
Mary anoints Jesus with expensive oil.
What a celebration this must have been: the family and friends of Lazarus, whom Jesus had resurrected from the dead, gathered together to celebrate the miracle of Life which had been given to Lazarus. Jesus was the guest of honor, and Mary, the sister of Lazarus cracks open a large and expensive vile of spikenard, and we are told that she anoints the feet of Jesus. Spikenard was from a plant which was crushed and distilled into an intensely aromatic amber-colored essential oil, which was very thick in consistency. Mary let her hair down in order to wipe Jesus’ feet, which would have been an unusual thing for a woman of stature to do: It would be an act of an somewhat unsavory female, but here it demonstrates a sign of extreme humility and devotion by Mary to Jesus; the more common method of anointing was recorded in Matthew and Mark, namely, that Mary poured the perfume on Jesus’ head.
There is no doubt that Mary’s action is a precursor to the death of the Lord Jesus within the next week during the time of Passover; the cross no doubt looms large in Jesus’ mind as Jesus mentions “the day of His burial”. The practice of “anointing” was done in Jewish culture many times as a gesture of welcome and courtesy, but more importantly it was practiced when a person was called by God to the offices of prophet, priest or king. Jesus had demonstrated that He indeed was a prophet like none other because He had fulfilled the message of every prophet of God who had preceded Him. He would soon fulfill the office of priest in BECOMING the sacrifice for sin. In a few days, the crowds following Him down the hill into Jerusalem would sing: “Blessed is the King of Israel,” heralding the correct message but with a misunderstanding of the nature of Jesus’ Kingdom.
The fragrance emanating from the costly perfume filled the entire house much like the glory of God filled the temple in Isaiah 6 and how the prayers and praises of God’s people are like a sweet fragrance being lifted to our God, but of course Judas did not see it that way. We see a clear picture of the self-serving character of the soon-to-be betrayer of the Lord Jesus.
The chief priests hatch a plot to kill Lazarus.
We continue in verse 9: “Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.”