Scripture tells us that Mary anointed Jesus with holy oil in preparation for His burial. This alabaster jar scripture is a beautiful story of one woman’s devotion to Jesus before his death on the cross. But there are a lot of questions related to these Bible stories. This post will answer those Christian questions and share exactly what we do and don’t know about who anointed Jesus feet with oil perfume.
Artwork Credit: JESUS MAFA. Jesus speaks about forgiveness, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48384 [retrieved March 28, 2022]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact).
FAQ on the Anointing of Jesus
This episode in the Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ is well known, but leaves some questions for Christians.
There is some debate over who the woman was who anointed Jesus with oil, but most believe it was Mary of Bethany. She was a close friend of Jesus, and her brother Lazarus had recently been raised from the dead by Jesus. Some Bible scholars believe that she may have also been the woman who poured perfume on Jesus’s feet at the feast in Simon’s house. There are three women named Mary in the Bible. The woman who anointed Jesus with oil was most likely Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. John 12:3 says that “Mary took a pound of very expensive perfume made of pure nard, and she poured it on Jesus’ feet.” Nard was a very fragrant oil used for perfuming the body.
The alabaster jar poured onto Jesus was an act of worship and reverence. This woman had been deeply moved by Jesus’ words and deeds, and she wanted to express her love and gratitude for Him in the best way she knew how. This act of pouring out the perfume is also a symbol of giving your all to God. When we offer up everything we have to Him, it shows that we believe He is worthy of our total trust and devotion. In addition, it signifies our willingness to let go of our old lives in order to follow Him fully. May we all be so willing to give everything we have to our Lord! There are a few interpretations of this event. Some say that the alabaster jar symbolized the offering of expensive perfume, and that when it was poured over Jesus’ head, it showed how greatly she loved him. Others interpret it as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who is often depicted in Scripture as being poured out like perfume. Still others say that it could represent both love and the Holy Spirit.
It is generally accepted that the woman who anointed Jesus in John’s Gospel was a different woman than the one who anointed Jesus in Luke. There are several reasons for this belief. First, there are differences between the accounts of each incident. Second, there is a difference in the detail provided about each woman. Third, the time frame between when each event is said to have occurred differs; the event in John’s Gospel is said to have happened much earlier than the event in Luke’s Gospel. Finally, there are geographical differences between where each event took place. Most biblical scholars believe that these discrepancies suggest that two different women were involved in these incidents–one woman who was known to John’s audience and another woman who was familiar to Luke’s readers. There is no way to know for sure which story is true. However, if they are two separate events, it’s possible that the woman in Luke was from Bethany, while the woman in John was from Galilee.
This is a wonderful Bible story to teach teenagers because it connects with their own passion and devotion to Jesus Christ. We recommend this free youth Bible lesson on Jesus being anointed by Mary.
An Alabaster jar is a style of vase that was popular in ancient Egypt. These jars were made out of a soft stone called alabaster, which was carved into beautiful shapes and then decorated with intricate patterns. The alabaster jar was one of the most popular containers for storing perfumes and oil in the ancient world, and they were often used as gifts or burial objects. Today, these jars are prized by collectors for their unique beauty and history.
Alabaster Box Scriptures: Mark 14:1–9; Luke 7:36–50; John 12:1–8; Matthew 26:6-13
The Alabaster Box is a container mentioned in the New Testament that was used to hold perfume or ointment. It was typically made of alabaster, a type of soft stone that could be easily carved. The most famous instance of an Alabaster Box is the one used by Mary Magdalene to anoint Jesus’ feet shortly before his crucifixion.
While we don’t know exactly what the Alabaster Boxes mentioned in Scripture were used for, it’s clear that they were considered valuable. In the story of Judas betraying Jesus, for instance, Judas was outraged when he saw that Mary had used an expensive perfume to anoint Jesus instead of selling it and giving the money.
An alabaster box is a perfume container that was used in Bible times. The word “alabaster” comes from the Greek word for “aulos,” which means “flute.” This indicates that the flask was used to hold aromatic ointments and perfumes.
Mark 14:3–9 KJV Jesus Anointed at Bethany: Which Mary anointed Jesus at Bethany?
Mark 14:3-9 KJV And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. (4) And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? (5) For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. (6) And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. (7) For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. (8) She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. (9) Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
Luke 7:36–50 A Sinful Woman Forgiven: Who was the woman with the alabaster box of ointment?
Luke 7:36-50 KJV And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. (37) And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, (38) And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. (39) Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. (40) And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. (41) There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. (42) And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? (43) Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. (44) And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. (45) Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. (46) My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. (47) Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. (48) And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. (49) And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? (50) And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
John 12:1–8 KJV Jesus Anointed by Mary at Bethany: Was this the same woman as in Luke’s account?
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. (2) There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. (3) 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. (4) Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, (5) Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? (6) 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. (7) Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. (8) For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
Matthew 26:6-13 Jesus Anointed at Bethany: Which woman brought the alabaster box?
Matthew 26:6-13 KJV Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, (7) There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. (8) But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? (9) For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. (10) When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. (11) For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. (12) For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. (13) 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.