Preparation for Burial
February 10, 2022
And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor." But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My 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" (Matthew 26:6-13).
In the Daily Devotion for Tuesday, February 08, entitled "Final Preparation for Death", I stated the Olivet Discourse took place on Wednesday of Passion Week. That was an oversight. These events took place on Tuesday of Passion Week. My apologies for the mistake.
Following the Olivet Discourse Jesus, with His disciples, retired to Bethany as was His custom. On this occasion He was invited to the home of Simon the leper for supper. Some scholars suggest that Simon was the father of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, or maybe the husband of Martha. All we know for sure is that this Simon (one of eight mentioned in the Bible) lived in Bethany and had been a leper. He, no doubt, had been one of the hundreds of people whom Jesus had healed during His ministry. We know this because, according to Leviticus 13:46, lepers were considered unclean and had to live outside the camp, village, town, or city, had to live alone, and could not live inside the house. Simon had a home in Bethany. Anyone who personally made contact with a leper would have been considered unclean. Therefore, many scholars believe the Lord had healed Simon of leprosy, and, in an act of gratitude, Simon welcomed Jesus and the disciples into his home for a meal.
The text tells us that during the meal an unnamed woman anointed Jesus with costly perfume. Who was this woman? She is said to be Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who also lived in Bethany and would have been friends with Simon as he had become a friend of Jesus. Others identify her as Mary Magdalene whom Jesus cast out seven demons (Luke 8:2). After her healing she became a devoted follower of Jesus. Others have identified this woman as a woman in the city (of Nain) who was a sinner (Luke 7:37). My opinion is this woman is unknown but may very well have been Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.
While it may be that Simon invited Jesus to supper because he had been healed by Jesus, and Lazarus and his sisters were invited to supper because Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Mary, always the insightful one, used this occasion to anoint Jesus for burial. There is no doubt that she loved Jesus for who He truly was - the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, her sins, and would do so by His death. When the disciples failed to believe this would happen, Mary believed it and prepared Jesus for it. May we show our devotion to the Lord, not in preparing Him for burial, but in preparing ourselves for His return. Amen.