Day 19

The Anointed One

from the John reading plan


John 11:55-57, John 12:1-36, Exodus 30:23-33, Isaiah 61:1-3

BY Jen Yokel

What does it mean to be anointed? Growing up, I mostly heard it used in a metaphorical sense, like when you want to describe a particularly beautiful solo of a hymn that’s a little too high for most of us. (“Did you hear her sing? Wow, she’s anointed!”) And then there are people in many Christian traditions who wouldn’t think twice about dabbing a little olive oil on someone as they pray, a physical, tactile practice of symbolic weight. But as we see in today’s readings, anointing carries a rich tradition behind it, and all throughout Scripture it’s a tangible way to set someone or something apart for a holy purpose.

From our perspective, this story of Mary anointing Jesus feels like a story about extravagant, impractical worship. “Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus’s feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3). Judas gripes about this foolish woman’s wastefulness. Jesus comes to her defense, honoring her actions as beautiful. 

I know for most of my life, I thought the lesson I should get from this story was, “Look at how freely Mary gives her worship! You should do that too!” But if I’m honest, there’s a little bit of my reserved, practical self that wonders if maybe Judas has a point. (Just a little bit. We all know he’s the bad guy here.) Dig a little deeper, and questions start to surface. Why perfume? Why all of it, and not just a tasteful dab? Everything about this moment feels so lavish and impractical, and if I were in Mary’s shoes, I know I’d feel ashamed for being so extra.

Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t see it that way at all. He sees how Mary overflows with gratitude to her teacher, her friend, the healer who elevates her at every turn and raised her beloved brother from death. Her response echoes the work of her ancestors, who lavished their most expensive fragrant oils on priests, and instruments and altars (Exodus 30:23–33). In her world, this kind of anointing was kept for only the most sacred tasks. What could be more sacred than the anointing Jesus carried: “to bring good news to the poor…to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…to give them…festive oil instead of mourning” (Isaiah 61:1–3)?

“Leave her alone,” the Anointed One admonishes Judas as the perfume drips from Him. “She has kept it for the day of my burial” (John 12:7). In this moment—while the plot to kill him builds to a crescendo, before He rides into Jerusalem on a humble donkey, as He continues to walk toward His destiny in Jerusalem—perhaps the gift of Mary’s anointing is the scent of courage.

Post Comments (75)

75 thoughts on "The Anointed One"

  1. Elizabeth McGee says:

    Ashley, praying for strength, protection and healing for you and your family

  2. Elizabeth McGee says:

    Praying for your husband, Lynne!

  3. Ali Adair says:

    Mary had such a close relationship with Jesus. As her gratitude for him overflowed, she spared no expense to show him. I don’t know if she knew that she was preparing Jesus for his burial, but Jesus did. I can’t help but wonder if this moment provided him some reassurance from the Father.

  4. Mudrock Mama says:

    “Hosanna!” That scene of fellow followers with palm tree branches gives me shivers. What a moment. Imagine. I can hear them and am crying out with them.

  5. Lynne from Alabama says:

    Thank you so much sweet SRT sisters! I knew I could count on you to be praying for my husband and his surgery. Claire B: you asked what hospital and it’s the Outpatient Care Services from Saint Vincents

  6. Gina C says:

    I’m praying with you Lynne! May God grant you peace, be with you husband and those caring for him, and bring healing in Jesus’ name, Amen!

  7. Claire B says:

    Lynne, you’ve got it. UAB Birmingham? Claire from Alabama

  8. Truth Seeker says:

    LYNNE FROM ALABAMA
    Praying for both you and for your husband as he undergoes surgery Wednesday the 26th. Praying for the surgeons that they may be successful and praying for you and for your husband that you will rely on God for His will to be done

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