Easter Study – The Anointing at Bethany

Mary Anoints the Savior's Feet

“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” – John 12:3

I love this story. What a way to start of the Easter Study Series – with the account of Mary’s tender love of the Savior.

What strikes me the most about Mary’s service to the Savior is the reverent nature of it. It is intimate and loving. Above all, it impresses to me that she had an understanding that Jesus Christ was the anointed one. She knew that He was the Priest, Prophet, and King.

Christ the Priest
The Bible Dictionary teaches us about Priests:

“The essential idea of a Hebrew priest was that of a mediator between his people and God by representing them officially in worship and sacrifice. By virtue of his office he was able to draw nigh to God, while they, because of their sins and infirmities, must needs stand afar off. The priest exercised his office mainly at the altar by offering the sacrifices and above all the incense but also by teaching the people the law, by communicating to them the divine will, and by blessing them in the name of the Lord.

The priest does not take his office upon himself but is chosen of God. In an especial sense he belongs to God and is holy to him. – Priests, Bible Dictionary

So, we can See that Christ was The Priest of priests.

  • He is the mediator between us and God. I love this scripture that shows the way that the ancient priest typifies the Savior:

    “…and the priest shall make an atonement for his [the person who has sinned and is bringing the offering] sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.” – Leviticus 4:35

    Obviously the priest didn’t literally make the atonement for the person who brought the offering. However, the priest was necessary. The person who wanted to be forgiven couldn’t offer the sacrifice without the priest. The priest was necessary to be a mediator between the sinner and God. Today, we don’t rely on priests in this function, just as we don’t offer burnt offerings. This is because Christ is the priest. He has atoned for our sins. Christ was the priest and the offering. It is because of Christ we can approach God – for forgiveness. We cannot go to God without Christ as our advocate and mediator.

  • Because Christ is the anointed one, the Son of God, He is able to “draw nigh unto God” while we must stand afar off. We are separated by our nature and sin. While Christ’s perfect nature allows Him to reason with God on our behalf.
  • Christ offered the ultimate sacrifice – of His own life, and we will continue to study this fact throughout the next ten days.
  • The incense symbolized prayers that went up to God. The priests offered/maintained the incense at the temple. When we think of the connection between Christ and prayers, his role as priest is again reiterated. We cannot pray without Christ. Each prayer uttered is in His name. Christ enables us to communicate with God.
  • Christ teaches us His law and communicates with us His will through the Holy Ghost, through prophets, and through His word.
  • Finally, Christ didn’t take this office upon Himself – the office as anointed one, Redeemer, Savior. Instead, He was chosen by God. Christ truly does belong to God and is Holy.

We can see that Christ is The Priest of priests. The reverence that Mary showed him is appropriate when we understand his role as Priest.

Of course, it doesn’t Stop there…
Christ the Prophet
We learn a few things from The Bible Dictionary

  • A prophet acted as God’s messenger and made known God’s will.
  • He taught men about God’s character, showing the full meaning of his dealings with Israel in the past.
  • A prophet denounced sin and foretold its punishment.
  • The prophet had to try to restore faith and remove false views about the character of God.
  • Sometimes, the prophet predicted future events.
  • Finally, a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost.

Christ was a prophet in every sense. He did all of these things. He was The Prophet of prophets.

When I think about the prophets that I have “grown up” with – even though I haven’t met them in person, I’m very aware of the love that they have for each of us. They dedicate so much time and energy – for much of their lives – for us. I know that the love and devotion that they have are only a fraction of the love that the Savior has. He is the Prophet that our prophets are trying to point us to. And if we listen to the council and testimony of the Savior, our Prophet, then we will understand more of God’s will for us, our faith will be restored, and we will gain a testimony of Jesus’s Divine role as Redeemer.

Christ the King

“Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool:…” – Isaiah 66:1

Jesus Christ is our King. It seems that Mary really understood this. Spikenard was very expensive, and she was criticized by Judas for using this. We get insight from the account of John as to why Judas was so critical.

“Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,

Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” – John 12:4-6

So…Judas is a big jerk. Jesus then gently rebukes Judas:

“Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.

For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.” – John 12:7-8

I’ve thought about this whole exchange. In the accounts of this event recorded in Matthew and Mark the fact that Judas was a thief and was interested in the money for his own selfish reasons was not mentioned. I’m not sure that it completely matters in this instance (follow me for a second!)…Regardless of Judas’s intentions, the fact was the Savior wouldn’t be with them much longer. There would not be many more chances to serve him directly. In this instance, we see that the following about Mary again is true.

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

And I wonder, did Mary really understand what was about to happen to Jesus? Is this why she served him, or was she following a prompting of the Spirit? He explains that she was anointing Him for His coming death. Maybe she understood…maybe she didn’t. I don’t really know. But the fact is, she anointed him, and days later, he was slain.

This makes me think of how important timing is in regards to service. There is so much that we don’t know. Maybe we have an idea of something happening. I mean, in the instance of The Savior – the Jews had been trying to kill him for a while. I’m sure that everyone was expecting that he’d be killed at any point. But Mary’s timing was right, and I think that is what I want to learn from her. I know in my life, the way to get the timing right in anything is to follow the Spirit. It seems like when we are open to the Spirit, then we are able to offer service that is necessary and sanctifying – both to those whom we serve and to ourselves.

And one last thing that I love about this story. Jesus tells Judas:

“Verily I say unto you, 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.” – Matthew 26:13

This is exactly what has happened. We know who Mary was – tender and loving. She prioritized the Lord. She followed the Spirit and understood the needful thing – choosing that good part.

What did you learn, what struck you, what inspired you as you read through Christ’s anointing at Bethany? Please comment and share!

***
Find the rest of the Easter Scripture Study Series here.

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  • "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." - Luke 10:42.
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