"Mary Anoints Jesus"
For His Burial 
John 11:55 - John 12:8 Bible Study

  • "Mary Anoints Jesus for the Day of His Burial"
  • "The Chief Priests Plot to kill Lazarus"

After Jesus brought Lazarus back to life the Jews had again plotted His death, but He escaped to Bethany.

These incidents occurred about two months later. 

Jesus has returned to Bethany, and according to the other Gospels, is staying at the home of Simon the Leper.

The people are wondering if He will attend the Passover in Jerusalem.


Mary Anoints Jesus
For the Day of His Burial


John 11:55 - John 12:8

Verse 55: "Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves."

The Passover of the Jews was at hand (close or nearby).

Under the New Testament, purification is through the blood of Jesus. However, the Old Testament Laws  required purification for situations considered to be unclean; (body fluids, skin disease, death, animal sacrifices, and others). 

Purification was also required before entering into certain types of activity, including the  one in this study, the "Passover Feast."

Water purification:" A physical or ritual cleansing of part or all of a person’s body, a person’s clothing or certain vessels.
Washing can be symbolic of purification from defilement or cleansing from sin. It can also be part of preparation for a special act of religious service."
(Dictionary of Bible Themes)

Verse 56-57: "They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?" 57Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him."

Men were required to attend the Passover Feast, and since Jesus had attended the other feasts they assumed He would be at this one. 

However, since so much hate and tension had been directed toward Him, some were wondering if He would be there.

John 12: Verse 1: "Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead."

After raising Lazarus from the dead there had been a plot against Jesus' life, and He had escaped/gone to Bethany.

Verse 2: "So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table."

Teachers were often invited to lecture at meals in return for free meals and lodging. Jesus was often invited to banquets such as this, but this one was apparently in His honor.

Reclining: It was customary to sit at normal meals; and to recline, on couches at special meals, (for instance, feasts and banquets).

Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead, was reclining with his friends and loved ones. The people could see with their own eyes that his resurrection was no illusion, he was completely restored.

This is the last we hear of Lazarus. We are not told how long he lived, nor what he experienced during the four days of his death. Wouldn't that be interesting!

Verse 3: "Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume."

Each of the four Gospels place this event within the last week of Jesus' ministry.

"Fragrance filling the house," vividly illustrates the close observation and intensity of the Apostle John's eyewitness account.

While it was customary to anoint the heads of important guests, they would only provide the water for their feet.

A pound, or pint, as mentioned here, is thought to have been around 12 ounces. 

A flask would normally contain not more than an ounce, so some thought Mary was being extravagant.  Scholars see this as evidence of the wealth and social position of the Lazarus family.

Spikenard (spahyk-nerd) was a perfume highly prized by the ancients. It was produced from a small native plant of the Himalayan Mountains. 

The high cost was derived partly from the transportation across the thousands of miles from India to Jerusalem. There were "cut" varieties of it, but what Mary used was the expensive pure nard itself.

Religious Jews resented women, who uncovered their heads and exposed their hair to men's gazes. Some believe, that since there is no mention of Mary's husband, she was probably unmarried.

Married, widowed or divorced, acting this way toward a famous rabbi would have raise eyebrows, but Mary's Christian love for the Lord was stronger than their criticism.

Verse 4-6: "But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5"Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" 6He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it."

The pint of pure nard was probably equal in value to a year's wages. 

The complaint from Judas is in character with everything the Bible has to say about him. The implication is that Judas, being a thief, saw himself missing out on some easy money.

The rabbis would sometimes delegate their school's financial matters to their disciples, but only the most trusted were permitted to keep group funds. This was Judas' position, which makes what he did even worse.


Jesus Defends Mary

Verse 7: "Jesus said, Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial."

Corpses were first anointed, (to clean them), and then washed with water. Jesus was considered to be a criminal by both the Romans and the Jews, and was executed as a criminal. and criminals were denied anointing before burial; so what Mary had done was very important.

Verse 8: "For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."

Many believe this statement as an allusion to Deut 15:11:  

"There will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land."

Jesus was not playing down the importance of taking care of the poor, but was bringing attention to His impending death. He was letting the people know that their first commitment must be to Him.

This concludes our study of "Mary Anoints Jesus for His Burial"


In Our Next Study:

"The Chief Priests Plot to Kill Lazarus"


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Maryville, TN 37802

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