Anointing of Jesus with oil

This is a short study about the anointing of Jesus with oil.
Our question is that how many times was Jesus anointed with oil?
A description of this incident is recorded by all the four gospels.
We read about the incident in Matthew 26: 6-13; Mark 14: 3-9; Luke 7: 36-50 and John 12:1-8.
But these descriptions are not about one and the same event. They are about three separate occasions of different women anointing Jesus.


First of all, let me tell you some similarities in the descriptions by the gospel writers.
In Mark and John, the oil was worth 300 denarii. Mathew and Luke do not mention the exact value.
Matthew says that His disciples were indignant against the act; Mark says: “But there were some who were indignant among themselves”; Luke says: Simon the Pharisee disapproved this act and John says: one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot criticized the action.
That means there were always someone who objected the action of the woman.

There are some similarity in the response of Jesus to those who objected the anointing.
In Matthew, Mark and John, Jesus reminds them that the poor are always with them and they can help the poor any time they like. The anointing may be considered as for His burial after the crucifixion.
In Luke, Jesus replies Simon the Pharisee with the parable about the creditor and two debtors.

John states that this event took place in Bethany six days before the Passover.
Matthew and Mark do not specifically state the date.
In Matthew and Mark, this incident is immediately followed by the story of the plotting of the Jewish leaders to arrest and execute Jesus. This plotting might have taken place two days before the Passover.
So it is justifiable to argue that Matthew and Mark describes an incident of the anointing Jesus with oil four days before Christ’s betrayal by Judas.


Let us also look in brief, at the dissimilarities between the narrations of the gospel writers about the anointing.
Matthew and Mark clearly state that this act took place in the house of Simon the Leper.
In the description of John, Martha took part in serving the meal. That means that it took place at her house where her sister Mary and brother Lazarus also lived.
Still we may argue that Simon the Leper invited Jesus and his followers for a meal at his house and Martha assisted with serving the meal. But this is a farfetched guess.
Matthew and Mark speak of his head being anointed while Luke and John says that His feet being anointed.
The main themes of each story are very different. 
In Luke the anointing was done by the woman, who was a “sinner”. Other people presented in the occasion thought that she was too unrighteous to do such an expression of gratitude. She anointed Jesus as a love and thanksgiving offering, and Jesus forgave her sins.
In the last two anointing events, Jesus mentioned that they were done for his burial.

Different Circumstances and different dates

Thus we come to the assumption that there are three different events happened at three different circumstances and date.
The anointing in Matthew and Mark are the same event, Luke is speaking of a different event at a different time and John speaks of another incident.
So the descriptions of the anointing with oil is different in each gospels because they are three different events. And hence, the descriptions are not contradictory.
Jesus was anointed on three separate occasions: the first took place sometime during the first part of His ministry, that is long before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 7:36-50); the second, shortly before the triumphal entry (John 12:1-8) and the third, after the triumphal entry (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).
The three anointing took place in three different houses and in two different cities.
The first event was probably about two years before the last two events and the last two events were four days apart.

The First Anointing

Anointing with oil upon guests of notable social status was fairly common in Jesus’ day.
So it is not surprising that people who were blessed by physical or spiritual healing would want to honor Jesus in this way.

As we said before, chronologically the first anointing of Jesus occurs in Luke 7:36–50.
This anointing happens in the first part of Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus was at Galilee, nearly 60 miles away from Jerusalem.

This event occurred in the house of Simon the Pharisee who lived somewhere in Galilee, probably Capernaum, Nain, or Cana. From the context, Capernaum appears most likely as Jesus had just raised the widow’s son in Nain (Luke 7:11–16).
Shortly after Jesus raises the widow’s son in Nain, John the Baptist’s disciples came to him, asking “Are you the coming One, or do we look for another?" (Luke 7: 19)
That means, John the Baptist was in prison but alive.  So this event apparently occurred at least two years before the Crucifixion. John’s death is recorded in Matthew 14:10Mark 6: 27 and Luke 9: 9.

The woman in Luke’s story is a known “sinner” of that time (7:37). The word “sinner” might be used by Luke as a euphemism for prostitute. She is unnamed.
She apparently approached Jesus from behind, knelt down, broke open the flask, and began crying.
She wiped his feet with her hair, cried while doing so and then anointed Christ’s feet with the fragrant oil. She anointed Jesus’ feet and not His head.
None of the disciples objected at the cost of the ointment at this occasion.
But Simon the Pharisee was upset that Jesus would allow a notorious sinner to touch him.
Jesus justified her through the parable of “creditor and two debtors”. 
He concluded the parable saying, "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." (Luke 7: 47)
And then He talked directly to this woman and forgave her sins.

Second Anointing

Chronologically, the second anointing happened just before the triumphal entry of Jesus into the Jerusalem city.
It is recorded in John 12:1-8. This account is quite different from Luke’s account.
The description of the anointing is similar in some aspects to the description in Matthew and Mark, but different in some other details.

This event occurred in the house of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in Bethany.
It happened six days before the Passover and a few days before the Triumphal Entry. This event occurred four days before the third anointing.
Jesus was having supper, Martha was serving the food and Lazarus sat at the table with Him.
“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” (12: 3)
Here the name of the woman is mentioned and the lady is identified as the sister of Lazarus.
The woman anointed Jesus’ feet and not His head. There is no mention of her crying.

It seems that only Judas was upset at Mary for this perceived waste of money.
Jesus defends her saying: “But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always." (John 12: 7, 8)

Third Anointing

The third anointing of Jesus with oil occurred after the Triumphal Entry in Jerusalem, two days before the Passover and just before the crucifixion.
Both the accounts in Matthew 26: 6–13 and Mark 14: 3–9 are the same.
This event occurred in the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany.
The name of the host during the first anointing and the third are similar.
But the first was Simon the Pharisee and the third was Simon the leper, who might have been healed by Jesus Christ.
“Simon” was a popular name in that place and time.
There are 8 different men named Simon in the New Testament, even 2 among the 12 chosen apostles. 
So it is possible that Jesus went to two different houses belonging to two men named Simon.
And also Matthew and Mark were differentiating their Simon from the Simon in Luke’s story, by calling him “Simon the leper”
A leper, or even a cleansed leper, would not have been accepted as a Pharisee. So this is clearly a different Simon than the one in Luke’s account.

And also, as I mentioned above, the dates and cities are different.
At this occasion of third anointing, an unnamed woman broke an alabaster box of fragrant oil and poured it on Jesus’ head.
This is the only account where Jesus’ head, and not his feet, was anointed.
Unlike the other women, the woman in Simon the leper’s house did not use her hair to anoint with oil.

Jesus talked about her but does not speak directly to her.
Some of the disciples are upset over the cost of this and they expressed their objection.
At the house of Lazarus, only Judas grumbled about the extravagance of anointing Jesus with expensive oil. Other disciples did not join him. But it is probable that Judas grumbled about the incident for many days and poisoned the disciples’ perceptions. So four days after, they also said that the anointing was wasteful.

But Jesus rebuked them for their attitudes.
Jesus said: “For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her." (Matthew 26: 12, 13 - NKJV)

Let me cut short.
We have clear evidence that Jesus was anointed with oil three times at three places and different occasions.
The first took place sometime during the first part of His ministry; the second, shortly before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the third, after the triumphal entry and just before His crucifixion.

Hope this short study has been a blessing to you all.
May God bless you all abundantly! Amen!

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