Mark 14:3-9 Jesus is Anointed for His Death
Last time we began the Passion narrative with the revelation that there was an explicit plot to kill Jesus. This time we see the surety of His impending death become clearer (though few present seem to see this truth).
This incident takes place in Bethany. If we equate this account with the similar story in John 12-1-8 then the woman in question is Mary of Bethany, but Mark is less concerned about names. The woman remains anonymous here. Equating Mark’s account with Luke 7:36-50 is unnecessary and causes at least as many problems as it solves (Cole, TNTC).
(Presumably) during dinner she pours a flask of very expensive perfume on Jesus’ head (v.3). Some present were indignant, scolding the woman. Mark leaves them too anonymous, but John (and Matthew) make it clear that the disciples are among the scoffers!
“Why was this ointment wasted like that?” (Mark 14:5)
Better to sell it and give the money to the poor, they retort! Their reproach of the woman reveals that they have completely missed the beauty (to use Jesus’ term in v. 6) of her gift of extravagant love, and serves to isolate Jesus, almost pointing us forward to His hour of trial and suffering (Lane, NICNT).
Jesus defends her:
Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? – Jesus (v. 6)
And in His defense He addresses their argument in favor of the poor. Here, Jesus is much like the poor, but righteous sufferer of Psalm 41. And given His current and impending circumstances, Jesus represents the “poorest of the poor” (Geddert, BCBC, p. 331). Could it be that, it is in this sense that Jesus commends her for recognizing “the needs of this poor sufferer” (Lane, NICNT). Surely there is an application for us here as followers of Jesus!
And let’s not miss this. She has anointed Jesus as King [Geddert, p. 331-332 (Kindle Edition)]! And wherever this gospel is proclaimed (the good news that Jesus is King!) what she has done will be told in memory of her. I can’t help but get tingles each time I ponder the fact that, at this moment, as we study this passage, we remember this anonymous woman for her extravagant act of love for Jesus, and her loving care for “the poor” in her midst, in fulfillment of Jesus’ words here (v. 9).
She has also anointed Jesus for His burial!
Looking “beyond the humiliation of burial…to the vindication of resurrection” (Lane, p. 494) which is such a core concept in the Biblical gospel (despite our modern evangelical reduction of the good news to: “Jesus died for your sins.”)
This woman’s lavish gift and extravagant love surely calls us, as His followers, to devotion to Jesus. But what is “the proper focus of lavish giving to Christ”? Perhaps it is time to focus less on giving to our lavish building funds and properly redirect such gifts to the poor (Garland, NIVAC)!
We could start by looking at our church budgets and considering what percentage goes to staff salaries, what percentage goes to building(s), and what percentage actually goes to helping the poor, sick and needy in our communities… but I digress. In the meantime, keep following Jesus!