I had always thought that there were just two incidents where Jesus was anointed. But recently, as I have gone through the various accounts, it seems fairly certain to me that there are 3 separate incidents. ( I am willing to be corrected if I am wrong)
The 1st incident takes place in Simon the Pharisee’s home, probably in the city of Nain, not long after the widow’s son was raised from the dead. (Luke 7: 36- 50) A woman, labelled ‘A sinful woman’, weeps her heart out, in sorrow for her messed up, broken, sinful life. Her mourning is shot through with joy, for she knows that here is One who has the power to forgive her sins. She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes His feet with her hair, kisses His feet, and anoints His feet with precious spikenard.
The 2nd incident takes place at Mary and Martha’s home in Bethany. 6 days before Passover, just a day before Jesus rode into Jerusalem. (John 12:1-11) Mary anoints Jesus’ feet and wipes His feet with her hair, at the feast given to celebrate Lazarus being raised from the dead.
The 3rd incident takes place at Simon the Leper’s home. (Matt 26:1-12, Mark 14:1-12) A nameless woman, whose story and motivation is not known, walks in on the feast and pours the precious spikenard on Jesus’ head.
As I read and re-read these narratives, I have been fascinated by the portraits of the three different women.
The 1st was a penitent sinner, the 2nd a joyful sister, the 3rd a nameless worshipper.
>> “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar.” Isa 33:17
Through their different circumstances and pain, each one of them had received a fresh and clear understanding of Jesus as the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, the Son of God, the One whose kingdom is not of this world.
We all know of the three Wise Men, and their journey to behold the King and worship Him. In these gospel narratives I came across 3 simple women who came with their hearts overflowing with repentance, gratitude, awe and worship, carrying what was precious to them as an offering, for they knew that they were in the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
>> “Wisdom begins with fear and respect for the LORD. Knowledge of the Holy One leads to understanding.” Pro 9:10 ERV
Each of these three women knew that their actions were likely to cause comment and outrage, and yet that did not deter them. Their eyes had seen the glory of their Maker, Redeemer and Master of the Universe revealed in the humanness of Jesus. At that moment of revelation, fear of man died, and they were set free to worship God with abandon.
>> David declared, “… I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” 2Sa 24:24 ESV
Each woman came with the costliest thing she had to offer. And it was all for Jesus and Jesus alone.