Mary at a supper in Bethany annoints Jesus with a precious ointment.                              .

John 12:1-11; Mark 14:3-9; Matthew 26:6-13




Jesus and His disciples came to Jerusa­lem to attend the Passover. They traveled with pilgrims from Galilee, who came down from the Jordan Valley to the area of Jericho. Here they crossed the Jordan River. At Jericho, Jesus healed blind Bar­timaeus and his companion.

About a mile west of Jericho lay New Jericho. Here King Herod had built a beautiful palace with ornamental gardens, pools, theater, and arena. This was the fashionable suburb of Jericho. As Jesus passed through, He stopped to speak words of salvation to Zacchaeus, who was despised by his fellow-Jews because he served as a customs collector for Rome.


The I5-mile journey from Jericho to Jerusalem involved a, wearisome climb of around 3500 feet. The road led through the barren hills of the Wilderness of Judea to the Mount of Olives. Jesus and His discipes probably began the journey early in the morning when it is a bit cooler. By the early part of April when they made this journey, the weather can be uncomfortably warm in the wilder­ness.

The journey from Jericho to Jerusalem took around 6 hours. Jesus and His dis­ciples went to Bethany to stay. Accord­ing to John 12: 1 they arrived 6 days be­fore the passover.

Bethany lies at the southeastern end of the long, finger-like range of the Mount of Olives. A short distance to the north of Bethany in a saddle-like section of the range was the area known as Bethphage. Then the top of the range rises somewhat sharply to the highest part. From this area, the holy city of Jerusalem seemed to lie at the feet of the pilgrim. And a path led down the western slope to the Kidron Valley and up on the other side to the city itself.



Jesus arrived at Bethany on Friday. The next day was the sabbath. Seemingly in the evening, Jesus and His disciples were invited to a dinner at the house of Simon the leper. Aside from his name, the Gospels give us no further informa­tion about him.

Among the guests were Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead a number of weeks before (John 11). Helping to serve was Martha, his sister.

During the dinner, Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, expressed her great love for Jesus as the promised Savior. She took a bottle of very precious oint­ment-like perfume, broke the top, and poured it over Jesus' head and feet. Then she wiped His feet with her hair. The fragrance of the ointment filled the room.

This ointment is called "spikenard" in the King James and "pure nard" in the Revised Standard Version. It was made from the roots and hairy stems of an aro­matic, fragrant herb of India (Song of Solomon 1:12; 4:13-14).

Coming all the way from India, this ointment became very expensive since heavy customs duties had to be paid as it passed from one country to the other. In the end the price had increased hun­dreds of times. Judas estimated the price as 300 denarii which gives an indication as to how precious and costly this oint­ment was. A denarius was the equivalent of one day's pay.

Because the ointment was so expensive, it was put into a special bottle, called alabastron. The King James uses the term "alabaster box," the Revised Standard version "alabaster jar." This was a long narrow, drop-like juglet or bottle. Ala­baster is a translucent whitish stone. If this bottle was of alabaster, it had been carefully and skillfully hollowed out.


However, at this .time, such a bottle may have been made froni glass and of a type known today as a "tear-bottle."



The guests watched Mary anoint Jesus. As the fragrance filled the room, the dis­ciples began to react negatively. To use such precious and costly ointment in this way seemed to them to be a waste of money.

Judas' reaction was decidedly negative.

He chided Mary openly for wasting so much by her act. He suggested that the ointment could have been sold and given to the poor. John 12:6 informs us that Judas had no special love for the poor. Rather he served as the custodian of the common purse of Jesus and His disciples. He took money from this purse for him­self.

Jesus rebuked His disciples for their unkindness. Expressing a fact, He said, ". . . ye have the poor always with you; but Me ye have not always." His death was so near that this anointing would serve as preparation of His body for His burial.

Today we remember with appreciation Mary's great love for the Savior. Her act of love undoubtedly has stimulated others to express their love for the Savior who has died, risen again, and now reigns as the Lord of the Universe and as our inter­cessor with God the Father.