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Published Date: August 2, 2007

Published Date: August 2, 2007

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‘…this woman’s deed will be talked about in her memory.’

This past year I have decided to slowly read through the Gospels and pay special attention to the words that Jesus said and the life that he lived. Although I have been reading the Bible now for many years, I am amazed at the new things I am learning as I read, like, for instance, in the case of the woman who anointed Jesus with the expensive perfume.

From sermons I’ve heard and from what I have read, my recollection of the story goes as follows: A woman of ill-repute came to Jesus and anointed him with expensive perfume, wiping his feet with her tears. Some of the disciples rebuked her, but Jesus said to leave her alone – that what she had done would be remembered for years to come. It always struck me that they didn’t mention her name. How would she be remembered?

Recently, I read in John 12, ‘A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.’ (John 12:2-3, NLT) I had to read it twice. What? Mary? I thought she was a woman of ill-repute with no name. Many times I had heard sermons on the assumed reasons why the woman (Mary was never mentioned) might have done this loving act. I had read a few days before that Jesus raised her brother Lazarus from the dead. Putting myself in Mary’s sandals I would have been very grateful if Jesus had just raised my brother from the dead.

I got out my commentaries and concordances and found that in each gospel there is an account of a woman doing a similar act as this. Only in one of the gospels is she mentioned as a woman of ill-repute. The other two gospels describe her as being a ‘woman’ and John names her as Mary. The commentaries and concordances pointed to these accounts as being the same woman. I was floored!

Why is this important to me? First, Jesus said that this woman’s act would be remembered. I had never heard a woman’s name mentioned in connection with this story and she was always talked about as a woman of ill-repute. The gospel of John gives her a name – Mary. Sermons have been centered on why this woman (Mary) would have performed such an act of adoration. The Bible tells us that Jesus allowed Mary to learn at his feet and he raised her brother from the dead. Knowing this makes it easy to see why Mary did such a loving thing as anoint him with expensive perfume and wipe his feet with her hair. Love, gratefulness, adoration. Why has this act of Mary not been remembered accurately?