Body and Blood of Christ

Anointing at Bethany

John 12:1-8

S ix days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, "Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." 

Page Divider

Anointing at Bethany


esus is in Bethany, the family celebrate his arrival with a meal. A joyous occasion coming as it does some days after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus is at table and Martha serves.

The anointing of Jesus is found in John and in Mark 14:3-9, in Luke and Matthew. John identifies the woman of the anointing as Mary of Bethany. Mark is silent.

Among those who witness the anointing are Lazarus, Martha, and Judas Iscariot. During the meal Mary brought in a pound of precious perfume and anointed Jesus feet. Anointing of the head and the face was not unusual. Anointing the feet took place after death. Having anointed his feet Mary proceeded to wiped his feet with her hair, which appears to defeat the purpose of the anointing.

John says the fragrance of the perfume pervaded the house. Judas, protests. The perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. A sordid note: did Judas intend to pocket the money! The pound of perfume was worth over two hundred denarii, in excess of two hundred days wages. Jesus will have no part in Judas criticism seeing in the anointing a demonstration of Mary’s love and the future embalming of his body.

Finally, John does not include Jesus moving comment in Mark: “Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her." This suggests that John’s source of the anointing is independent of Mark. Echoes of the anointing in Luke 7:36-38 and in Matthew 25:6-13 are found in John.

Oisín Feore




Quill Pen


This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists


Unfolding the Story of jesus

Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries

Unfolding the story of jesus