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3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.


An anointing of Jesus occurs in all four gospels, making it very significant for the life of Christ. The anointing in Matthew, Mark, and John is not the same event as in Luke. There are, then, at least two anointings. The anointing in Galilee was different than the one in Bethany a year later.

3 Then Mary took a pound [Roman, not western “pound”] of very costly oil of spikenard,

“Then” is the word therefore. Mary performed an act of worship because of what Jesus did for her brother Lazarus. Her heart flowed over with love for her Lord. She was irrepressible in both devotion and sacrifice.

“Spikenard” was a very costly ointment, an expensive perfume. Its value was about 300 denarii. This was probably an aromatic herb from the Himalayas between Tibet and India. The transportation of this nard through the mountains made it “very costly.” The amount of a litra was about 11 ounces, a little less than three-quarters of a pound.

It is important to note that this Mary was not the same as a “sinful woman,” who also anointed Jesus’ feet (Lu 7:36-50). The latter event occurred at a Pharisee’s house in Galilee, not the house of Simon the leper as in Matthew, Mark, and John. The two women offering the anointment were entirely different. Mary was a devout follower of Jesus; the “sinful woman” was not called Mary. Mary did not weep, and her wiping of the feet was entirely different from the woman in Luke 7; the latter woman wept and her tears fell on Jesus’ feet. Jesus rebuked Judas for criticizing Mary in John 12, but He rebuked the Pharisee in Luke 7 for criticizing the act of the “sinful woman.” Mary anointed Jesus toward the end of His ministry, but the anointment by the “sinful woman” (though mentioned in a later book) occurred earlier. The discrepancies between the Luke account and the other accounts are so great that they cannot be the same event.

It is important to remember that the synoptics often arrange their pericope by topic, not by chronological order. John’s gospel is more chronological.

anointed the feet of Jesus,

Mary expressed her thanks to the Lord for resuscitating Lazarus from the dead by anointing His feet. She poured perfume on Jesus’ head in the gospels and on His feet here. There was enough perfume for His entire body. She probably poured the remainder on His feet. This woman gave her life savings account to the Lord. Nothing is ever wasted that is given to Jesus.

and wiped His feet with her hair.

Wiping the feet of someone was a degrading act In Jewish culture. Mary was willing to risk this act of humility in the presence of everyone at dinner. She violated the oriental rules of propriety by touching Jesus’ feet. She poured so much perfume on His feet that it was necessary for her to dry them.

And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

The result of Mary’s devotion to Jesus filled the house with aroma. Her love and generosity for the Lord was staggering. All this took some spunk.


True love gives sacrificially.


Mary was the embodiment of sacrifice. She generously gave to the Lord because of her great love for Jesus and what He did for her brother.