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The text for this lesson is John 12:1–8

Key Point

  • The Holy Spirit renewed Mary’s life, enabling her to show love for Jesus. The Holy Spirit renews my life so that I strive to overcome sin and live as God’s child, showing love for others.
  • Law: My sin troubles me and condemns me to eternal death.
  • Gospel: Jesus gives His love and forgiveness to me and all sinners who call upon Him for mercy and, through His Spirit, gives me new life, enabling me to love others.


  • Jesus is anointed at Bethany on Tuesday of Holy Week (Mark 14:1). Palm Sunday is already past. Jesus has already cleansed the temple, taught about His return, and cursed the fig tree. Immediately after this anointing, Judas goes to the chief priests and launches his plan to betray Jesus.
  • Commentary

  • The account of Jesus’ anointing appears in some form in all four Gospels (Matthew 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; Luke 7:37–39; John 12:1–8). In Matthew, Mark, and John, all of the details agree, including location and occasion. In Luke, a similar event takes place while Jesus is conducting His Galilean ministry. This apparent discrepancy need not trouble us. It is likely that the events are similar, but distinct. Luke writes about one event; Matthew, Mark, and John write about another.
    We know from John that the woman who anointed Jesus was Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. This Mary plays a role in three important events in Jesus’ ministry. The first (sequentially) is in Luke 10. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and is attentive to His teaching, while Martha busies herself with preparing the meal. Jesus commends Mary for being attentive to the Word. At the death and raising of Lazarus (John 11), the roles are reversed. Martha expresses confidence in Jesus’ ability to raise her brother from the dead and confesses faith in the resurrection on the Last Day. Mary accusingly tells Jesus that if He’d been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died.
    Jesus’ anointing is the final event. Mary recognizes that Jesus has come to die, and because of this, she uses everything that she has to honor Him. She breaks an extremely expensive jar of perfume and uses it to anoint Jesus’ feet. Judas estimates the value of the nard at 300 denarii, or ten months’ wages (12:5).
    Judas is indignant because of the extravagance of Mary’s gift. John (v. 6) reveals that the reason Judas was upset was that, as the disciples’ treasurer, he wanted access to the proceeds from the sale so that he could rob Jesus’ treasury.
    Jesus makes two very important points about Mary’s actions. First, she has anointed His body for burial. When Luke describes this event, he makes this connection extremely clear by using the same word for the ointment in this event (Luke 7:37) and for the anointing oils at Jesus’ burial (23:56). Second, Jesus says that Mary will be remembered for her actions (Mark 14:9).
    Mary’s extravagance is remembered because she is one of the only people present during our Lord’s earthly ministry who even came close to recognizing the true value of who Jesus was and what He was doing. Only Mary was willing to spend her entire fortune (meager as it was) on Him. Only Mary recognized that Jesus was going to go to the cross to die in her place.
    Mary does not earn Jesus’ favor by doing this. She does it because the Holy Spirit used Jesus’ love for her to move her to do this good and holy work. So it is with us; the Holy Spirit moves us to live as God’s children, not to earn God’s forgiveness, but because of it.
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