While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Mark 14:3-9 (NIV)
Who was this woman in Mark’s story? This woman who did something beautiful for Jesus? The gospels relay two stories of Jesus being anointed by a woman, but with differences, as well as similarities.
Mark and Matthew (26:6-13) say Jesus’ head was anointed in the home of Simon the Leper, in Bethany. John (12:1-8) tells the story of Jesus’ feet being anointed, also in Bethany, but in the home of His friends, Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Were there two anointings of Jesus’ body by a woman? If so, was it Mary both times? Or, was there another woman who also sought to comfort the Lord, and as Jesus said, to prepare Him for His burial?
Whatever the case, we know this: It was an act of love and worship and Jesus called it “beautiful.” He was being recognized for whom He was, and given the very best the person had, to be poured on His body. Her eyes were on Jesus – no distractions and no concern for what others might say. She came to adore the Savior, and to comfort Him in the only way she could.
It is our instruction from that same Lord, our Jesus, to go out and do kindnesses for others, and to do them in His name. For He says to us: “I tell you the truth, whatever you (do) for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you (do) for me.” Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
And He, our Jesus, will call these loving acts done in His name — beautiful.