Summary: Jesus prepares for His death in front of His disciples with Lazarus at His side; Lazarus had been raised from the dead…Jesus would too!
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and many people believed, but many others refused and even wanted to kill Him. They were afraid of a rebellion and they knew Rome would come and take away their nation and their power, but it’s not His time yet so He can’t be killed.
I want to go back and look at 11:54-55; if we only had John’s gospel we might not realize just how much happens between those two verses. He goes to Ephraim (we know that much), but John doesn’t tell us (as the other gospels do) that from there He made His way to Samaria and healed ten lepers and had another confrontation with the Pharisees. Then He went to the coasts of Judea where He met the rich young ruler and bumped into some more Pharisees. Shortly after that He made His way to Jericho where He encountered Zaccheus and healed another blind man. Only then does He go to Bethany and begin the events in chapter 12.
It’s important to know this because John skips several exciting stories just to tell us about Mary pouring oil over Him. Why would He do this? How could that story be more important than some of the others?
I want you to notice that the rest of his gospel mainly covers only one more week in time. Within six days Jesus will be on the cross, and there are five big events building up to it:
(1) Jesus is anointed by Mary before His death (12:1-11)
(2) Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem by people waving palm branches (12:12-19)
(3) Jesus meets with some Greeks and condemns rejection (12:20-50)
(4) Jesus meets with His disciples in the upper room (13:1-17:26)
(5) Jesus goes into the garden to pray before His arrest (18:1-2)
And then He’s arrested, tried, crucified, and resurrected. We get a little insight to some teachings beyond that but he doesn’t recount the ascension.
And so, we’re going to focus on why he chooses these five things (especially the first three). Why would He skip so much to tell us this?
Before we begin I’d also like for you to know that Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 share what we’re about to read today from a slightly different perspective. We won’t read them now, but you should so you can get those extra details. For now let’s start in the first verse:
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
Matthew and Mark both tell us that the supper was held at the home of a man called Simon the leper. You’ll notice in verse four that Judas is Simon’s son. It’s possible that they had met at Judas’ father’s house.
It’s also interesting that there’s another story of a woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair in Luke 7:36-39. It’s not the same story, but it’s important because we know that the woman did this to His feet because of her great love for Him (7:47). Why does Mary pour this oil out onto Jesus? I think it’s because she too loves Jesus.
But the point I really want you to see here is that Lazarus had been dead but Jesus raised him again. This, I believe, is the main point in telling us this story about Mary. He’s getting ready to go to the grave…but look at Lazarus and be comforted!
2There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.
He’s no stranger to this family; it wasn’t long ago He was here and Martha served while Mary sat at His feet. (Lk. 10:38-42).
When it says “but Lazarus” it draws special attention to the fact that Lazarus is there too. He was dead and in the tomb, but Jesus the life-giver made him alive! Now he’s sitting with Jesus and enjoying fellowship with Him.
3Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
This was referenced in 11:2. She was so devastated at that time but the Lord had brought comfort. Now she has a genuine love for Him that she shows with the spikenard.
Matthew and Mark both say that she anointed His head; some think this is a contradiction, but as I said earlier, it really just shows us a more complete picture. She poured this oil on His head and it ran down to His feet. She got down on her knees and wiped the oil from His feet with her hair. In other words, she covered His entire body with this expensive oil, but it’s not appreciated by all: