Woman Anointing Jeszus Feet

Mark 14:1-11 NIV


14 Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you,[b] and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.



  1. Happy Halloween! No really. Halloween – an abbreviation of All Hallows Eve – is the day before All Saints Day (November 1 in the Western Church) and a time of celebration that Christians should claim. On All Hallows or All Saints we remember and give thanks for those who have died and gone before us into God’s eternal kingdom. Halloween serves as a reminder that death is not the end, and that death has been vanquished by Christ, hence we can mock it, celebrate it or have festivals in honor of it.
  2. On the other hand, for 1,200 years Christians have celebrated on this day the triumph of life over death, the hope of the resurrection and the communion of the saints.
    1. In the 800’s the church moved the date of the feast of all saints to November 1 in order to proclaim the Gospel on a day when the Celtic people in Ireland and Scotland celebrate that the souls of the dead ancestors were coming back to visit.
    2. All Saints day was established to help people not fear the grave and to recall the hope we have in Christ.
  3. The observance of a Christian feast on the same day of a previous pagan festival was also done with Christmas.
    1. The date for the celebration of Christ’s birth, December 25, coincided with the pagan festival of the winter solstice.
    2. On that night, light began to push back the darkness and it seemed a perfect day to celebrate the birth of Christ, the light of the world.
  4. That was some of the background on Halloween.
  5. At communion time this morning, we will remember those parted friends and neighbors as part of our celebration of their life.
  6. But right now, we continue working our way through the Gospel of Mark.
  7. Last week’s Scripture and today’s Scripture take place during what is known as Passion Week.
    1. Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover and last week we looked at the time when Jesus had entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey or a young colt and the people were celebrating his arrival – the Messiah has arrived – but quickly the celebration turned sour and the Cross of Good Friday loomed in the near future.
  8. Last week we remember the story of the Fig tree that was barren – there was no fruit, or any sign of fruit on the tree and it represented results of Israel’s response to God and Jesus was showing the Disciples what would happen to Israel if they did not change and follow God’s commandments.
  9. Today’s reading also conveys another important message about Jesus and the life that is required to be a disciple of Jesus – a message of surrender and love.
  10. Keep in mind that this reading from the Gospel of Mark is actually repeated in the other Gospels – with little variation. – the principal theme is the anointing of Jesus in Bethany.
  11. Take a look at your bulletin again for the Scripture and as it was read and listen to the morning Scripture today, we actually hear three stories.
    1. The first is the scheming plot by the priests and the Scribes to actually arrest Jesus and kill him – but they want to wait until the time that Passover was over — it would be easier – so they thought.
    2. The third, at the end of the Scripture, is the beginning of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas as he goes to the Chief priest and the Scribes and prepares a plan to betray Jesus. And Scripture repeats that they were delighted to hear of this and they would pay him money for his betrayal.
  12. This morning we will focus on the middle part of the Scripture– anointing of Jesus in Bethany.
  13. When referring to the earliest followers of Jesus, the Gospel writers often speak of two groups of disciples: The Twelve Disciples and the Women.
    1. The Twelve refer to the twelve Jewish men chosen by Jesus to be his closest companions and first apostles, symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel.
    2. The Women refer to an unspecified number of female disciples who also followed Jesus, welcoming him into their homes, financing his ministry, and often teaching the Twelve through their acts of faithfulness and love.
    3. Just as Jesus predicted, most of the Twelve abandoned him at his death(John 16:32). But the women remained by his side—through his death, burial, and resurrection.  
  14. Pause
  15. We all know that smell is most powerful sense for bringing back memories—it is the smell of special scents that brings back joyful times.
    1. Yesterday, Ann was cooking chicken breasts in water with onions and bay leaves – fresh chicken noodle soup was being prepared in the kitchen and the sent was waffling through the house. Ah – old memories of homemade soup
  16. Scent, unlike anything else, brings us back. Scent reunites the senses of taste, touch, sight, and sound to place us, at least for a moment, in a time past.
  17. So, it is strange that in the most aromatic of the Passion stories, our collective memory fails us.
    1. We know there is a woman.
    2. We know there is an anointing.
    3. We know there is expensive, perfumed oil.
    4. We know there is a protest.
  18. But when it comes to the details of the woman’s anointing of Jesus, Gospel accounts vary.
  19. Matthew and Mark describe an unnamed woman from Bethany who, while Jesus dined in the home of Simon the Leper just days before his death, anoints his head with expensive ointment to the chagrin of the disciples at the table, who grumble that her offering might be better spent on the poor.
  20. John identifies the woman as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who bathes Jesus’ feet in perfume and wipes them with her hair.
    1. In John’s account, it is Judas who chastises Mary for her waste.
    2. Luke writes of a “woman of the city, who was a sinner,” who bathes Jesus’ feet in a mixture of perfume and tears, wiping his feet with her hair and kissing them with her lips.
  21. In this story in Mark, a Pharisee condemns her, noting that “if this Jesus were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
  22. Whether these accounts represent one event or two, or possibly even three, has been the subject of speculation for centuries.
    1. It’s easy to get frustrated with the writers of Scripture, who are so careful to name and distinguish the Twelve, but who often blur the Women together.
    2. It must be unintentional irony when Mark has Jesus predict that this story will always be told in memory of a woman whose very name escapes him.”
  23. But the account most commonly tied to the Passion of Jesus is that of Matthew, Mark, and John:
  24. Just days before his betrayal and death, Jesus and his disciples were eating at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany. While they were reclining at the table, a woman, who John identifies as Mary of Bethany, approached Jesus with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume, worth about a year’s wages. Mary broke the jar, pouring the perfume on Jesus’ body.
  25. While John writes that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair, Matthew and Mark report that the woman of Bethany anointed Jesus’ head.
    1. Both actions carry important symbolic meaning.
  26. In the ancient Near East, the act of anointing signified selection for some special role or task.
    1. Kings were often anointed with oil as part of their coronation ceremony, often by a prophet or priest.
    2. The Greek word Christos, Christ,” is a translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah, which means “the anointed one.”
    3. And so, this anonymous woman finds herself in the untraditional position of priest and prophet.
  27. In the upside-down Kingdom of Jesus, it makes perfect sense.  Jesus is defying the normal and traditional thinking of the role of a woman as he accepts the anointing.
  28. So, in the Gospels there are two stories about the anointing of Jesus – either his feet or his head. Let’s explore deeper and see what this can mean to us today.
  29. Anointing the feet models service, discipleship, and love.
    1. In this sense, John’s account is more personal and rawer.
    2. In a culture in which a woman’s touch was often forbidden, Mary dares to cradle the feet of Jesus in her hands and spread the oil across his ankles and toes with the ends of her hair.
    3. Rather than measuring out a small amount of oil, Mary breaks the jar lets it all pour out.
    4. She’s all-in, fully committed, sparing no expense. Nard comes from India and hence in the ancient times was very expensive!
    5. The oil she may have been reserving for her own burial, or the burial of a loved one, has been poured out generously, without thought of the future.
  30. The humility of this action foreshadows the foot-washing that is to come. Later, Jesus would imitate Mary by washing the feet of the Twelve, telling them to do the same.
  31. But in the midst of all this symbolism and foreshadowing, Jesus sees something else at work. Jesus interprets the woman’s act of worship as preparation for his burial.
    1. When the disciples rebuke the woman for what they see as a waste of money, Jesus responds by saying, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.”
  32. Jesus had been speaking of his impending death for a while, but the Twelve were having none of it. When Jesus told Peter that “the Messiah must be rejected, suffer, and die; then he will be raised,”Peter responded with such an impassioned protest that Jesus rebuked him with “get behind me Satan!”
  33. Clearly, the Twelve struggled to conceive of a kingdom that would begin not with the death of their enemies, but with the death of their friend.
    1. They imagined that their ministry with Jesus would continue for months and years to come.
    2. You can sense the sadness in Jesus’ words when he reminds them, yet again, that he will not always be with them, that he is preparing for the most difficult days of his life.
  34. We cannot know for sure whether the woman who anointed Jesus saw her actions as a prelude to her teacher’s upcoming death and burial.
    1. I suspect she knew instinctively, the way that women know these things,
      1. that a man who dines at a leper’s house, who allows a woman to touch him with her hair,
      2. who rebukes Pharisees and befriends prostitutes,
  • would not survive for long in the world in which she lived.  
  1. Surely a woman in this society would understand this better than a man.
  2. Perhaps this is why the women stayed by Jesus’ side after so many of the Twelve betrayed him, denied him, and fled from him in fear.
    1. This was the course of things, the women knew.
    2. They would see it through to the end.
  3. And so, the woman of Bethany becomes the first of Christ’s disciples to acknowledge his impending death.
    1. For this, Jesus praises her in unparalleled terms. “Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
  4. What a remarkable thought—that at every communion, every Easter service, every cathedral and every tent revival, from Israel to Africa, to Europe to China, this woman’s story should be on our lips, right along with Christ’s.
  5. And yet, today, while we break the bread and drink the juice, we rarely pour out the oil.
  6. Jesus wanted us to remember, but we have forgotten.
    1. We aren’t even sure of this woman’s name.
  7. Perhaps we should bring back this oil, this costly perfume, and make it part of our Eucharist.  Perhaps, with the help of the Spirit, the scent of it might trigger our memory.
  8. Anointing prayer: (Name) we lay our hands upon you in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, calling upon Christ to uphold you and fill you with grace, that you may know the healing power of God’s love. Amen.