Summary: What happened at Bethany when Jesus was annointed by Mary? What symbolisms were at work?
The Annointing at Bethany
Jesus Cleanses the Temple and spends some time there teaching. It is clear that he spent at least that Monday and Tuesday teaching in the Temple. While in the temple, Jesus gives a number of teachings (found most clearly in Matthew’s gospel).
These include the Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Tenants, The Wedding Banquet, The Parable of the Ten Virgins, The Parable of the Talents, and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. In the middle of these parables is a dissertation on the end times. Finally, in Matthew 26, Jesus tells his disciples again that he will be crucified after the Passover.
It is in this context, two days before the Passover (Tuesday) that he goes to Bethany and at Simon the Leper’s home he is anointed for burial by Mary.
This story is recounted in Matthew, Mark and John’s Gospel. Only Luke omits it.
While 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. 4 But some were indignantly remarking to one another, "Why has this perfume been wasted? 5 "For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they were scolding her. 6 But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. 7 "For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8 "She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. 9 "Truly 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."
The Gospel of John adds some details and some conflicting information (which we will study in detail tonight).
Verse by Verse:
1. Verse 3 While he was in Bethany
a. At the home of Simon the leper & reclining at table
i. Jesus is eating dinner, and someone does something that is highly unusual and most likely, socially inappropriate.
b. There came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard;
i. The flask was of alabaster, a whie, semi-transparent stone, a carbonate of lime or sulphate of lime, white or yellow stone, named alabaster from the town in Egypt where it was chiefly found.
1. It was used for a phial employed for precious ointments in ancient writers, inscriptions and papyri just as we speak of a glass for the vessel made of glass. It had a cylindrical form at the top, as a rule, like a closed rosebud (Pliny).
2. Just the jar or flask itself was costly, used often as a decorative piece in the homes of the wealthy.
3. But the contents NARD were even more priceless.
a. Nard is an ointment from a plant found in the Himalayan Mountans.
b. "An alabaster of nard (murou) was a present for a king" (Bruce).
c. And she broke the vial and poured it over his head.
i. Here is a vital point: Once broken, it could not be reused. It had a long, slender neck that was designed to be broken. It was broken because there was no other way to get the NARD out of the jar.
ii. APPLICATION: Unless the outer vessel, our flesh and old man is broken, there is no way that our new man, the Spiritual Man, can become evident to the world. Brokenness is the only way the fragrance of Christ will come out of our lives to touch the world.
iii. We resist brokenness, (because it hurts) but it is the path to holiness and being used by God.
iv. I read of a pastor who tells of being asked to preach in a large church whose services are broadcast on television. On the way from the airport, the guest received these instructions. “People worship with us in order to feel good about themselves. Therefore, don’t mention the cross in your sermon. And don’t dwell too much on sin.” Shhhhhhhhh, don’t tell anybody about pain and brokenness.
v. The working illustration here was of the amount of brokenness that went into the making of a loaf of bread: the farmer planted the seed in the broken soil, with a heart of hope on its return. Later, the harvest was cut, the sheaves were broken apart to yield the grain, and the grain itself was still in need of breaking. The grain was put on a threshing floor or a millstone, broken up into flour, and later made into bread. Even the flour in the bread needed to be broken apart numerous times by kneading. And this produced a loaf of bread which, broken, could feed a family