DUNCAN/Christ anointed with oil: For burial
If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Matthew 26:6-13. The passage breaks into three parts. You see in verses 6 – 7 this strange experience, this extravagant action by this woman. Jesus is at supper, and she anoints Him with oil, very expensive perfume. And then you see the disciples' response in verses 8 – 9. That’s the second part of the passage. And then in verses 10–13, you see Jesus’ rebuke to the disciples and His glorious commendation of the woman, even at the same time while He once again foretells His own death. Let’s look at these three sections together.
I. Jesus Anointed with Oil
First, in verses 6 – 7 Jesus fulfills three aspects of the Old Testament that tells us what God is like. The Old Testament tells us that God is exalted, but He dwells with the humble. The Old Testament says that God is the one who heals our diseases. And the Old Testament tells us that God alone is to be worshipped.
Notice Jesus’ willingness here to dwell with the lowly. He’s not in Bethany with the mayor and city council. He’s not in Bethany with the great and prominent citizens of that little village. He is in Bethany with this man who was a leper. Lepers are outcast from the community. Yet our Lord Jesus, who didn’t have a home, stayed with a former leper in his home. There’s a poignancy to that. He draws near to the humble.
And the Lord Christ healed him. He was cleansed from his leprosy. Yet in order to remind us of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in healing him, he is continually referred to as Simon the leper. Simon is no longer a leper solely by the hand of Christ. So, we are reminded of Christ’s exclusive healing power and His saving abilities.
And then in verse 7 we see this woman, who we learn is Mary from John 12, come and perform an act of profuse devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. As Mary is pouring out this perfume, she is pouring out her heart. She is filled with genuine religious love and gratitude and devotion. And the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t say, "Now Mary, you’re going a little too far here.” He receives Her worship, and her extravagant act of devotion to Him, because He is worthy to be praised.
So in these verses, you see a three-fold reflection in the Lord Jesus Christ. He dwells with those who are humble and lowly in heart. He is the one who heals and saves. And He is worthy to be praised.
II. The Disciples Lack of Understanding
Then, as you look at verses 8 – 9 you’ll see a disappointing response from the disciples. They are vocally indignant about what has just happened. And the disciples display their deficient piety in the way they assess Mary. They misjudged the heart and the motives of Mary. They didn’t understand the significance of what she was doing.
Mary understood the priority of Christ in a way that the disciples themselves were struggling to grasp. The disciples were outraged when they saw this woman take this alabaster vial filled with perfume that John tells us was worth over a year’s wages. This had perhaps been a family heirloom that had been sealed for many generations. As long as the seal of that alabaster bottle was shut, that perfume could last a long, long time. And she takes it, and she breaks it open, and she pours the whole thing on the Lord Jesus Christ. And the disciples are outraged, believing that she just wasted over a year’s wages. Yet Mary thinks, “How could I possibly waste anything on the Lord Jesus Christ?”
You’ll never waste anything on Christ. Waste your time, waste your strength, waste your life, it’ll never be wasted on the Lord Jesus Christ. Mary understood that in a way that Jesus’ disciples had yet to grasp. She understood that no gift was too great in response to such a love as His. Divine love which not only gives everything, but is content to be unrequited. You’ll never outgive His love. Who knows how long that heirloom had been in the family? But Jesus was worth it, and so she worshipped Him with what was perhaps the most valuable thing her family owned. The disciples are shocked, but God is pleased, and Jesus Christ is pleased.
III. Jesus Defends Mary and Announces His Death
And then we see Jesus’ response in verses 10 – 13. He gives us a wonderful announcement about Mary and Jesus’ response simultaneously testifies to His death. And again, we learn that true faith in Christ apprehends who He is. It understands the meaning and significance of His death and the benefits which flow from that death for all those who believe in Him.
In verse 12, He says, “She poured this perfume on My body, and she did it to prepare Me for burial.” He is saying to them that her anointing Him was in prospect of His coming death. God is providing for His Son’s burial in the actions of Mary. You know criminals weren’t anointed in Jesus’ day. A nice upstanding citizen who died would be prepared and anointed with expensive incense and perfumes and ointments and then would be buried in a tomb. But common criminals who died, especially the death of the cross, would simply be heaped into a common pit, which would be filled up and then covered over with dirt. There would no anointing. Jesus is saying, “What Mary is doing here is in prospect of My burial, for I am going to die.”
Did Mary understand what she was doing, or was she doing something beyond her grasp? Well, listen to this. Mary, of Bethany, was perhaps the best listener that Jesus ever had. And this may well have been her thought in what she did. She may have been thinking to herself, “This will be the last opportunity I ever get to bestow kindness on Jesus.” It went according to His own predictions. His enemies will kill Him. Will His friends be able to anoint Him at that time? And so she takes the most expensive thing she has, and she anoints her Savior. We have a picture here of Jesus not only being prepared for burial, but we see a picture of true worship, giving the best we have because of His love for us. She was anointing her Savior. For though the world would look at Him in the next few hours as a criminal, she acknowledged Him as her God and Savior. And it was the ultimate act that she could do in showing her love for Him. Let us love and worship in view of His love for us in the same manner as Mary.