Updated: Dec 28, 2021
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INTRODUCTION. Bethany was a small village less than two miles from Jerusalem.
The Bible records two occasions that Jesus visited with his friends, Mary and Martha, who lived in this village. In addition Jesus journeyed to Bethany with his disciples when He raised their brother Lazarus from the dead.
The first incident which occurred about four months before Jesus' crucifixion pictures the contrast between Martha and Mary. Both sisters honored Jesus at that time– Martha honored him as a guest, while Mary honored him as a teacher (Luke 10:38-42).
The second incident was a feast which took place six days before the Passover just prior to Jesus' crucifixion (John 12:1-11). Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead (John 11:1-46), sat at meat with Jesus while Martha again served. Mary anointed Jesus' feet with an expensive ointment of pure nard. Nard was a perfume made from a plant called nard or spikenard with the finest plants coming from India. Mary's ointment was sealed in a flask or alabaster box, also a costly object. The Roman denarius (pence, KJV; shilling, ASV) was worth about seventeen cents, the amount of one day's wage in New Testament times. Thus 300 denarii, the value of the ointment (John 12:5), would be about $51.00 or the wages for almost one full year. The quantity of ointment, a pound (John 12:3), in our weights and measures would be equivalent to twelve ounces.
In this second incident Mary again honored Jesus. Her act in anointing Jesus' feet and wiping them with her hair showed great love, gratitude, and humility. Judas objected to Mary's act, not because he felt compassion for the poor, but because he was covetous and a thief. Jesus answered Judas by defending Mary, stating she had anointed him in anticipation of his death and burial.