Monday, March 17, 2008
Jesus Anointed with Costly Spikenard
All 4 of the Gospel writers in the New Testament record an account of Jesus being anointed with costly pure nard or Spikenard.
1) Was He anointed on His head or His feet?
2) How many times during His ministry was He anointed?
3) Who anointed Him with the precious oil?
a. Mary of Bethany
b. Mary Magdalene
c. An anonymous woman
d. All of the above
4) Where did the anointing(s) occur?
a. Simon the Leper's home
b. Lazarus' home
c. Simon the Pharisee's home
d. At the Last Supper
It is easy to assume these are all the same story. Closer reading will show they are actually 3 different occurences in Jesus’ life and in 3 different locations.
One was at the beginning of His ministry, one was 6 days before His burial, and yet another one was 2 days before His burial.
The time of Luke’s story is the early days of Jesus’ ministry at Simon the Pharisee's home most likely by Mary Magdalene. Our focus today is on the other two occasions.
Matthew & Mark write of the same occasion. This was 2 days before Passover at the home of Simon the Leper by an unidentified woman who anointed Jesus' head. John's story takes place 6 days before the Passover when Mary of Bethany anointed the feet of Jesus while he was at the home of her brother Lazarus.
Just to be sure, the Bible does not recount Jesus being anointed everyday or at the Last Supper.
The one litra of spikenard each used is worth about $2200 in today’s currency. (A 5ml bottle of pure therapeutic grade essential oil of spikenard retails for about $45.) The $2200 is equivalent to a year's wages for a common laborer around 30 A.D.
Some myrrh (also very costly) may have been mixed in with the spikenard as a fixative substance. The application of both spikenard and myrrh in the last week of Jesus life has some interesting implications. Both of these oils are known for their ability to heal wounds and scar tissue. When Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus’ 6 days before His death, Judas objects to such a valuable commodity being used to anoint Jesus’ feet when it could have been sold for a substantial amount and distributed to the poor. Jesus’ response to Judas was to say, “Leave her along. She bought it for the day of my burial.”
Myrrh was a customary burial oil, but spikenard was not. Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities . . . and with his stripes we are healed.” Jesus knew he was to receive a brutal flogging from the Roman soldiers in less than a week, just prior to His death. He knew His body would be covered with deep cuts and bruises in addition to the penetrating wounds of the cross. He also knew a miracle was to take place during his burial. Except for the scars on His feet, hands, and side, His injuries would all be healed without a trace.
While Jesus’ healing and resurrection was an act of God, and not the result of any oils applied just before or after his death, it is interesting that the oils Jesus received, twice in the last week of his life, are precisely the ointments that would have been chosen to treat such wounds to effect healing with little or no scar tissue. Spikenard's emotional effect in aromatherapy use has been known to be very powerful for anxiety. Jesus’ comment to Judas was as if He was affirming the appropriateness of these essential oils from which His body could well benefit during His ordeal – before, during, and after the cross—as well as in the tomb, during His burial, when His healing took place.
The oils and plants mentioned in Scripture were commonly known in that era along with their benefits for health & wellness. It is always amazing to me how much more significant their mention becomes when we have insight into information that was such common knowledge to them, but has become so foreign especially to our Western way of thinkng.
You will find the accounts of Jesus' anointings in Matthew 26:6-7, Mark 14:3, Luke 7:36-38, John 12:1-3.
Stewart, David, Ph.D., HEALING OILS OF THE BIBLE, copyright 2003, CARE Publications, Marble Hill, MO
Higley, Connie and Alan, REFERENCE GUIDE FOR ESSENTIAL OILS, copyright 1998-2004, Abundant Health, Spanish Fork, UT
Photo Charles Webber © California Academy of Sciences