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Gospel of John - Chapter 12 - Lesson 1

Posted on May 22, 2016 at 4:45 PM

Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany


John 12:1 (ESV) Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.


Since Passover was less than a week away, Jesus was staying with His good friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus since Bethany was near Jerusalem and the temple. This was the Lazarus that Jesus had raised from the dead. They were the first “Singles’ Group,” remember? Jesus and Lazarus were relaxing or as the younger generation says, “chillaxing” at the table while Martha served the meal. Jesus’ friends were hosting this dinner in His honor. People had wondered whether Jesus would dare to show His face in Jerusalem for the Passover since the leaders were out to kill Him. Obviously, He did not let that threat keep Him away. HIS TIME HAD NOT YET COME, but it was very, very near.


John 12:3 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.


“Exactly what is nard?” you may ask.


Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language:

NARD, noun

1. A plant usually called spikenard, spica nardi; highly valued by the ancients, both as an article of luxury and of medicine. It is an odorous or aromatic plant.

2. An unguent prepared from the plant.


So, nard is an expensive, fragrant ointment with healing properties. It was customary for a servant to wash a guest’s feet since they wore sandals and were dirty, tired, and sore. Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with the expensive, perfumed, healing balm, something beyond the usual foot washing. She then bent down and wiped them off with her own hair with her face right by His feet. I wonder why no servant stepped in to offer her a towel at that point? Perhaps everyone was in shock that she would do such a thing in the first place. Do you think the people there realized there was a sacred exchange going on? Or did they think she was being a little weird? I wonder if she realized she was anointing Him for burial? Maybe she did or maybe she didn’t, but Jesus knew. I believe she was led by the Spirit to do so. Mary was always at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him intently, hanging on His every word.


Luke 10:39 (ESV) And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.


Read the account in Luke 10 to learn more about the personalities of Martha and Mary and what Jesus had to say to them.


John 12:4 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?”


One denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer, so this ointment was worth almost a year’s salary! Judas questioned the extravagance of this seemingly wasteful gift. He seemed to think it was foolish to use up all the nard in this way. Judas made the supposedly benevolent suggestion that the nard could have been sold to support the needy.


John 12:6 He 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.


Judas’ desire was not relieving some poor person’s distress. It was self-interest because as treasurer of the disciples he could steal the money to line his own pockets. He didn’t really care about needy people but was just looking for a way to justify his indignant attitude toward Mary using the nard on Jesus’ feet.


John 12:7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”


Jesus foreshadowed His imminent death and burial as He told Judas to leave her alone. He accepted her act of worship as preparation for the trial He was about to face. There would be other opportunities to help the poor, but this might be Mary’s last chance to minister to Jesus, to worship Him while He was living among them.


John 12:9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.


The people wanted to see the Miracle Worker and the miracle recipient, Lazarus. Because he had been raised from the dead, Lazarus now drew crowds of his own. He was a walking billboard proclaiming that Jesus was Messiah, the Son of the Living God.


John 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.


Now Lazarus’ picture was on a wanted poster! His testimony was bringing people to belief in Jesus as God. Therefore, he was as much a threat to the chief priests as Jesus Himself. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha could testify that Lazarus had been dead four days. Many of the Jews had witnessed this miracle as well, but their hearts remained hardened to the truth. All they could see was the threat to their political power and therefore, all the creature comforts that came with it.


Q – Mary gave all of the best thing she had, the expensive ointment. She withheld nothing, not even her dignity, as she knelt and wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair. Are you willing to lay everything at the feet of Jesus? Or does pride keep you from humbling yourself before Him and in front of others?


Categories: Gospel of John, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, Judas Iscariot

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