Thursday, December 31, 2015

Women in the Life of Jesus: Mary of Bethany

Scriptures where she can be found: Mark 14, Luke 10, John 11-12

Setting: Bethany

Her story:

Mark's Gospel-

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her. 
-Mark 14:3-9

John's Gospel-

Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

But Jesus said, 'Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.'
-John 12:1-8

My thoughts:

I wanted to share both accounts of this story. While I was studying this out, and thinking about this account of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus with the spikenard, I learned a few things about the story and the writers. They have some similarities and some differences.

One of the accounts is written by Mark, often referred to as John Mark. He was not present during this event. The events in his Gospel account have been said to relayed to him mainly by the apostle Peter.

In Mark's account, we are told whose house everyone is in, Simon the Leper. But Mary is not referred to by name. We know it was her because John tells the same story. In John's account, we are not told whose home the disciples and Jesus are in, but Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are all named as being there.

Mark tells us that "the woman" breaks the flask and pours it on Jesus' head. John tells us how much of spikenard she has, "a pound", and that she anoints his feet and wipes them with her hair. John also tells us that the whole house is filled with the fragrance of the oil.

Mark says that what she did made "some" indignant. John identifies the "some" as being Judas Iscariot, although there could have been others as well since Mark uses a plural pronoun. In both accounts though, we are told of Jesus' response. He defends her, and tells them to "let her alone."

I especially like the detail in Mark's account because he tells us that Jesus says, "She has done what she could." Doesn't that just warm your heart? Mary did what she could for Jesus. She gave Him something of great worth, something to honor Him.

Maybe you think you have nothing to give. The Lord sees you, and sees your heart. When you give to Him, doing what you can, He May recall that to you someday.

He honors Mary even more by saying,

Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.

And its a story that will continue to be told until His return!

To read more posts in this series, go here to Women in the Life of Jesus.


  1. This is so heartwarming. I know I've read this story many times, but it's so easy to forget that God wants us to do what we can, not give up because we cannot be perfect.

    1. Something that might seem insignificant to others, when we do it for the Lord, yields much honor from Him.

  2. Drake and I read it together and enjoyed discussing it. Beautifully done.