At the Feet of Jesus

In his Gospel, the Apostle John places the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany on the evening before His entry into Jerusalem.1 Holy Week began with Mary’s anticipation of Jesus’ death.2 Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to listen to His Word. She is once again at His feet, this time to pour out her love as she pours out costly nard, and then humbly uses even her own hair to wipe His feet.

Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a litra* of perfume of very costly pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was going to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to take from what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”
John 12:1–7 LSB

The house was filled with its fragrance, and that meant no one, whether they were paying close attention at that moment or not, was now unaware of what Mary had done. This public act was not easy for her. John records Judas questioning of her act, while Matthew and Mark mention disciples who were indignant at what they saw as waste. Alan Cole writes:

Mark uses enebrimōnto (AV, murmured against her) which philologically means ‘snorted at her’, but in emotional content comes closer to modern English ‘glowered at her’.3

The Lord Jesus rebukes them and tells them to leave her alone. R. V. G. Tasker describes this woman who risked being under their focus and commentary:

Her character in the Gospels is wholly consistent. She understands better than her sister Martha that, when Jesus of Nazareth is visiting their home, every possible moment must be spent in His presence (see Lk. X. 38–42). And she understands now that, when Jesus is with them for the last time before His passion, nothing could be less wasteful than offering Him a sacramental token of loyalty, understanding and devotion, however costly that offering may be. Jesus commends her for her loving insight, as He reminds His disciples that they will always have the poor as possible recipients of their charity, but they will not always have Himself.4

I have often thought that those hours spent at the feet of Jesus listening to Him speak led to this hour at His feet to anoint Him.

Jesus not only goes on to explain why she did this, but Matthew and Mark add this detail:

“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
Matthew 26:13 LSB

The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus Christ: His death, burial, and resurrection. When it is proclaimed, it is so right that we remember Mary’s act of devotion to the Lord Jesus the week of His death.

Nardostachys grandiflora, spikenard {{PD-US-expired}}.
*Approx. 1 lb. or 0.5 kg.
LSB: Legacy Standard Bible New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs (Steadfast Bibles, Irvine CA: 2021).
1Robert L. Thomas and Stanley N. Gundry, A Harmony of the Gospels (HarperSanFrancisco: 1978) 174.
“Possibly this episode occurred later, two days before Passover as Matthew and Mark may imply…instead of six days before as John places it. The placement of John is preferred in this Harmony, however, because it is easier to construe the synoptic accounts as flashbacks than to interpret John’s account as an anticipation. The fourth gospel apparently gives the event in its chronological sequence. Matthew and Mark, on the other hand, introduce it out of sequence either to contrast the worship of Mary with the animosity of the high priest, chief priests, and scribes…or to show why Judas was so interested in obtaining additional funds.”
2,4R. V. G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. John (Wm. B. Erdmanns Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI: 1960) 144–146.
3Alan Cole, The Gospel According to St. Mark (Wm. B. Erdmanns Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI: 1961) 209.

Copyright ©2021 Iwana Carpenter

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