Matthew 26:6-13 (The Anointing in Bethany: Sorting Out Marys)

What was the name of the woman who anointed Jesus in Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper?  See Joh 11:2, 12:3.  Was Mary of Bethany the same as Mary Magdalene?  Note: Magdalene is an appellation indicating a Mary from Magdala, a city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and clearly distinguishes her from Mary who was from Bethany.  Does Luke give the name of the woman who anointed Jesus in the house of Simon the Pharisee?  See Luk 7:37.  Is there any reason, other than the confusion of the different incidents to suppose that the woman Luke describes as having anointed Jesus earlier in His ministry was Mary of Bethany, or Mary Magdalene?  Notice that Luke specifically names Mary Magdalene in Luk 8:2 and identifies her not as having anointed the feet of Jesus but as having been delivered from seven demons; how likely is it that she is the woman he left unnamed just a few verses before?  Notice also there is no indication at all that Mary of Bethany was a sinner, by which is implied an immoral woman.  Rather, the indication we have is the exact opposite; cf. Luk 10:38-42.  How many different women are named Mary that indicates how common the name was in Jesus’ day?  See Mat 1:18, Joh 19:25, Act 12:12, Rom 16:6.  Why was Mary such a common name?  Notice that Mary in our English versions derives from the Greek Maria that is a shortened form of Mariam that was used in the LXX for Moses’ sister, which form is also commonly found in the New Testament.  Hence, the Hebrew Miriam became the Greek Mariam, that was shortened to Maria, and became Mary in our English versions.  What does this teach us about the high regard Jews had for Moses’ sister?

In spite of the similarities that lead to confusion, in what way was the anointing described by Matthew, Mark and John different from the anointing described by Luke?  In addition to the different time, location, and woman involved, what was different about the perfume used in the Bethany anointing?  Was it a common, ordinary perfume such as that which appears to have been used by the woman in Luk 7:37-38?  See Mat 26:7, Mar 14:3 and note[1].  Whereas the woman in Luk 7:37-38 clearly anointed Jesus’ feet, and just His feet (Luk 7:38, 46) after wetting them with her tears, what do Matthew and Mark clearly indicate Mary of Bethany anointed on Jesus?  See Mat 26:7, Mar 14:3; note too that people did not sit at tables for meals in that culture, but reclined on the floor with their head close to a low table which held the food and their feet away from the table.  What do their descriptions also indicate about the amount of perfume and how liberally she anointed Jesus compared to the description of the woman in Luk 7:37-38?  Cf. Mat 26:12 where the word translated by the NAS as pour is different from that used in Mat 26:7 and means literally to throw or cast down as it is usually translated.  What does John also record that Mary of Bethany anointed on Jesus that indicates the extent of her anointing?  See Joh 12:3, and consider that it was the liberality of the costly anointing that the disciples, and especially Judas, took issue with.  Note also that the pound John references was a Roman pound equivalent to about 12 ounces.

According to Matthew and Mark, was it only the one disciple Judas who became indignant at Mary’s actions?  See Mat 26:8, Mar 14:4.  How did the disciples perceive the precious anointing?  See Mat 26:8, and note that waste is literally destruction; cf. Mat 20:24, 21:15 for other examples of indignant.  What does their reaction indicate about the thrift that otherwise characterized their lives and Jesus’ ministry?  How much did they estimate its worth to be?  See Mar 14:5, Joh 12:5 and consider that 300 denarii would have been a year’s wages, or the modern equivalent of around $30,000.  What does the suggestion that it could have been given to the poor indicate about their understanding of the importance of alms?  On the other hand, what does Joh 12:6 remind us of how people will say the right thing, knowing what is true, even though their heart is driven by other motives?  Are we like that?

What does Mary’s possession of such an expensive commodity indicate about the means of her family?  See Luk 10:38 and consider that welcoming Jesus into their home also meant welcoming those who were traveling with Him; cf. Joh 11:19.  What do we know about Mary’s prior relationship to Jesus that culminated in such a sacrificial act of devotion?  See Luk 10:38-42, Joh 11:1-5,28,32-35,45.  On what occasions would the Jews have anointed the head of someone with precious oil?  See Gen 28:18, Exo 30:25,30, Lev 8:12, 21:10, 1Sa 10:1, 2Ki 9:3, Psa 23:5, 133:2.  Although the religious leaders of the Jews and the rulers of the world’s kingdoms did not recognize Jesus for who He was and would not anoint Him as priest and king, who did?  How is this in keeping with the way the kingdom of God comes and grows, and what does it remind us about how God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wisdom of the wise?  For what other purpose was oil used?  See Isa 1:6, Mar 6:13, Jam 5:14.  Why is this especially significant in light of John’s description of Mary also anointing Jesus’ feet, and His approaching crucifixion?  See Gen 3:15.

[1] An alabaster of nard (murou) was a present for a king. It was one of five presents sent by Cambyses to the King of Ethiopia.  Robertson’s Word Pictures.