The Women Who Anointed the Lord Jesus

The remarkable scenes of the anointing of the blessed Lord by the woman in Simon the Pharisee's house, and by Mary of Bethany, will for ever remain precious to those who value the Person of Jesus and the grace that brought Him down from heaven to speak to our troubled hearts, and to bring us to know His deep love so that we could respond in affection and worship.

Some have thought that the incidents of Luke 7 and John 12 are one and the same, but careful examination shows that they are quite distinct events, even if they have some features in common. In both the ointment was poured from an alabaster box, and in both the feet of Jesus were anointed.

Matthew, Mark and John all record the same event, John telling us that the woman was Mary of Bethany, and Matthew and Mark revealing that the anointing took place in the house of Simon the leper. The anointing of Luke 7 was in the house of another Simon, even Simon the Pharisee. There are many Simons named in Scripture, the nine of the New Testament all being carefully distinguished the one from the other. There is nothing that would make us suppose that Simon the Pharisee was the same person as Simon the leper.

The anointing of Luke 7 appears to have taken place in Galilee, and in the course of the Lord's Galilean ministry, for although the events of Luke are grouped together in a moral way, rather than chronologically, the events of chapters 4 to 9 all seem to belong to Galilee. From Luke 9 (See verses 51 and 53). the Lord is viewed as journeying towards Jerusalem, which He does not reach till the close of chapter 19.

Mary's anointing is shown by the three Evangelists to be at the end of the Lord's pathway on earth, and within a few days of His death and burial. Moreover, this was not in Galilee, but in Bethany of Judea. This anointing was not in the midst of His labours, but in view of the Lord's impending departure, even as He says in Matthew 26:12, "For in pouring out this ointment on my body, she has done it for my burying."

In Luke 7 the woman is presented to us as a repentant sinner, whereas Mary is depicted in John 12 as a worshipping saint. There is no doubt about the state of the poor sinful woman; she was in need of salvation and the forgiveness of sins, and of peace for her troubled heart; and all these she received from the Lord's own lips in Simon's house. Mary of Bethany, in Luke 10 is found as a learner at Jesus' feet; nor is there any question about her sins in John 12; she is there adoring the One she had learned as the Resurrection and the Life in the raising of Lazarus.

The woman of Luke 7 first of all washes the feet of Jesus with her tears of contrition, then wipes them with her hair; and after the wiping she anoints His feet with the ointment. There is no word of Mary washing the feet of Jesus with tears: her tears had been shed when Lazarus died, and at that time Jesus had wept with her; but He dried all her tears before she anointed His feet. Mary first anoints the feet of Jesus, and wipes His anointed feet, not His washed feet.

Two different ointments were evidently used by these devoted women. The woman of Luke 7 used "myrrh," but Mary's was "pure nard," which the Holy Spirit tells us was "very costly." The woman of Luke 7 was a "five hundred pence" debtor, whom the Lord forgave; Mary was a "three hundred pence" worshipper, whom the Lord commended. There is no mention of the woman in Luke 7 breaking her box, but Mary broke the flask of pure nard; it had been kept for the Lord, and was for Him alone.

Both Matthew and Mark speak of the head of Jesus being anointed, an act quite out of keeping with the approach of a repentant sinner; but in perfect harmony with the Holy Spirit's presentation of Jesus in these Gospels. In Matthew the head of Israel's King is anointed, and in Mark the head of Jehovah's Prophet and faithful Servant, and a devoted saint of God has the privilege of so anointing Him.

The two invitations are quite distinct in character. Simon the Pharisee evidently invited the Lord to eat in his house so that he could scrutinize more closely the One whose teachings and actions were drawing so much public attention. His erroneous and harsh judgment of the Lord revealed the true condition of his heart, and called forth the Lord's exposure of it in contrast with that of the poor repentant sinner's. How very different was the invitation at Bethany, where they made the Lord a supper, and where He is surrounded by those who love Him, and where they admire, adore, commune, serve and worship.

In Luke 7 the Lord intervenes on behalf of the poor sinner, revealing the attitude of God towards sinners, and commending the response of one to whom much is forgiven. In John 12, in answer to the murmurings roused by the avarice of Judas, the Lord says, "Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this"; and in Matthew 26, "Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her." The commendations of the Lord are so very different, each perfect according to the circumstances and state of the one who anoints Him.

Only three are spoken of in the incident of Luke 7, Jesus, Simon and the woman; whereas in the other incident there are Jesus, Lazarus, Martha, Mary and the disciples of Jesus, evidently a different company. In the former case, Jesus speaks to Simon and to the woman, the subject of discourse being the forgiveness of sins; in the latter, Jesus only speaks to those who murmur at Mary's action, defending her against them, and praising an act that anticipated His going into death. The woman of Luke 7 is an uninvited guest in Simon's house, but Mary is evidently one of those who made the supper for Jesus.

Each scene is beautiful and touching, and delightful to the heart of Jesus. Whether it be the gratitude of the repentant sinner or the adoration of the heart of the admiring saint, it brings pleasure to the blessed Lord, and calls forth His approbation. A self-righteous Pharisee cannot understand the actions of a heart touched by divine love, or discern the glory of the One who had come to manifest the grace of God to sinners. A Judas, held in the grip of the love of money, and the tool of Satan, only sees waste of precious ointment, for he had no heart for the Son of God, and no sympathy for one who would give her greatest treasure to show how she valued Him.