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Mary Anoints Jesus' Feet

The Life of Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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At this point in John’s narrative, Jesus has performed all 7 of the signs spoken about in the book of John. In , Jesus decided go to Bethany after hearing that Lazarus was sick. The disciples respond that they will go with Him and die as well. While we know from the other Gospels that this is the same last trip that began in Caesarea Philippi, John places emphasis on how volatile the situation has become in Jerusalem for Jesus. John gives us a lot the behind the scenes workings of the Jewish leaders and their schemes against Jesus. There are several times in the book in which he shows the conversations that the Jewish leaders had concerning Jesus.
On top of this, many people are starting to believe in Jesus, especially because He just raised Lazarus from the dead. This is arguably His most powerful miracle, as He proved that He was the resurrection and the life.
The air is tense with excitement in Jerusalem, and this is the scene that John leaves us with as we get into .
This is the scene

John 12:1–2 CSB
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, the one Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there; Martha was serving them, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with him.
John tells us that it is now six days before the Passover, and that Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was. It actually seems that this isn’t the same trip in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but it was definitely near the time, as people are still crowding to see the man that Jesus resurrected. Bethany is only about 2 miles away from Jerusalem on the other side of the Mount of Olives (east side). Therefore, it would have also been abuzz with travelers coming form all over Israel and the Roman Empire for the feast of Passover, which takes place in mid-April. Jerusalem would see an influx of almost 1 million people during this time, which meant that many people would be staying in the nearby villages and even in tents around Jerusalem. The whole countryside would be awakened to the sound of voices, music, and festivities.
Well, Jesus and His disciples were amongst these travelers, and so they came to Bethany, where Lazarus was. John points out that this was the Lazarus that Jesus had raised from the dead (only in the previous chapter in this Gospel). Lazarus must have been a common name if John has to point out only a few verses later that this was the same Lazarus that Jesus raised from the dead. It’s understandable, as I would have to differentiate if I said Matt or Mike these days.
John tells us that because Jesus came to Bethany six days before the Passover, they gave a dinner for Him there, and Martha was serving them, and Lazarus was one those reclining at the table with Him. Now, it may not be the same trip that Jesus took to raise Lazarus from the dead, but it sounds very much like the same trip that we read about in Luke where Martha was serving and Mary was just sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Only the honored guests would be invited to recline at the table as there was limited seating. It is very much like the tables we sit/recline at when we go to Abraham’s tent in Israel, on the Jericho road. They were low tables and you reclined, rather than sat at the table.
This is the setting...

John 12:3 CSB
3 Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’s feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Therefore/then, Mary took a pound (.7 of our pounds/ a little less than 6 chicken eggs) of perfume of pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. According to Judas, this was worth at least 300 denarii (a denarius being a days wage) which would have equalled around $2,400. I’m not sure what it smells like (I’m going to try to get some tonight), but it was a very costly perfume, especially if it was pure. It was also strong, for its aroma filled the whole house. The smell actually comes from the roots of the nard plant. It is an Indian plant that grows on the mountains of the Himalayas. The fact that it is not from the area would also add to its rarity and cost.
Well, Mary takes something that is worth almost a year of wages, and she pours it on the dirtiest part of Jesus - His feet. They would have been dirty from traveling all day, and perhaps they hadn’t even been washed yet. Mary anoints His feet with this expensive perfume, and then wipes them with her hair - the most precious thing to a woman in those days, her glory (). In this one act, Mary is saying that the most valuable things that she could bring are not even close to the worthiness of the least part of Jesus - His feet.
This is why my pastor likes to use this passage to illustrate worship, for that is what worship is. Worship is realizing that even your best is nothing compared to Jesus’ “worst,” yet still bringing it to Him in humility.
John points out that the whole house is filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Everybody would have known what Mary did here and it would have probably stayed there for a few days. This pleasant smell was a beautiful picture of how God sees our worship to Him. It is a pleasing aroma. Mary was expressing on the outside what was going on inside.

John 12:4–6 CSB
4 Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.
But, John says, one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray Him), asked why this perfume wasn’t sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor. John makes sure to point out the wicked nature of Judas. I always think that the other disciples must have held some kind of bitterness, or at least a sensitive spot in their hearts, every time they thought of Judas. I’m sure that they even hated him for a while, or the thought of him, for he was dead. He betrayed their Messiah! John tells us that Judas wasn’t asking this question because he cared about the poor, but because he used to pilfer the money-bag, since he was the keeper of it. Now, even if this question had been sincere, there are things which are good and things which are best, which we will see in a minute.
Think about the wickedness of Judas here for a minute, though. He was putting up a false pretense that this perfume should have been sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor. Yet, the real reason he wanted this to occur was so that he could pilfer some of the money. His anger burst out because he missed out on stealing a part of this money. We see here how far his sin had really gone by this point. He wasn’t scared any longer to outright request that things be sold, so that he could take some of the money. His sin had grown so great that he even lamented over something that could no longer be done - namely selling the perfume and giving the money to the poor. John says that he did this because he was a thief. It was his being a thief that caused him to steal. We see that Judas had a love for money that even drove him to betray Jesus. The love of money is a dangerous thing.
Many times, people will try to come in the way of your worship. It may even be something good, like serving in ministry, but the highest form of worship is what Mary was doing here. This was the best, not just the good.

John 12:7–8 CSB
7 Jesus answered, “Leave her alone; she has kept it for the day of my burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
What was Jesus’ response to Judas’ harassment? I would think that He would have rebuked him and exposed his pilfering, but it wasn’t yet time. Jesus is in control here. He responds in a way that actually teaches His disciples and Mary and everyone seated there. He shows them the difference between what is good and what is best. Jesus commands Judas to leaver Mary alone. Why? So that she can keep it for the day of His burial. My question when I first studied this passage was what Jesus was saying she would keep here. It’s obviously not the perfume, as she had already poured it out on His feet. Yet, He was perhaps speaking a bit cryptically here, so that those who don’t want to hear will not hear. But He was referring to this moment of worship. Jesus wanted her to keep this moment in her heart for the day when He is killed. Mary was going to need to know that this moment of worship was pure and the best thing she could have done. In fact, it may be one of the very reasons she was there at the tomb the morning of the resurrection. Jesus wanted her to keep this heart.
This is also a warning to coming in the way of somebody’s worship. They may do something that probably doesn’t seem right to you, but be very wary of coming in the way of it. If it’s not anti-Biblical, then it may very well be the way in which they have a moment like this with Jesus. God forbid that you would come in the way of that. Be aware.
Then, Jesus finishes in verse 8 by telling them why what Mary did was the best thing in this situation. He tells them that they always have the poor with them, but they do not always have Him. Sure, we all have Jesus in the Spirit living within us, but we do not have Him here physically. This is literally the only time, until the Millennium, when someone could have worshipped Jesus in this specific manner. There would no longer be a chance to pour perfume on His feet and wipe them with one’s hair. This was the only time. The poor they would always have with them and be able to give them money. Therefore, what Mary did here was the best thing that could have been done. Given a choice between ministering and spending time with Jesus, worshipping Him, spending time with Him will always be the better choice.


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