John 12:3 - Jesus Anointed at Bethany - An Illustration of God's Methods.

John 12:3 - Jesus Anointed at Bethany - An Illustration of God's 

John 12:3 (KJV) Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, 
very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with 
her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.  

John 12:3 (NIV) Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an 
expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with 
her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the 

John 12:3 (NLT) 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 12:3 (AMP) Mary took a pound of ointment of pure liquid 
nard [a rare perfume] that was very expensive, and she poured it on 
Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair. And the whole house was 
filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  

John 12:3 (MSG) Mary came in with a jar of very expensive 
aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus' feet, and then wiped them 
with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house.  


Pound or Pint: 

Probably about 0.5 liter. [NIV SB 2008]

12 oz (.7 lit). [Ryrie SB]

About 11 1/2 oz. [SDA Bible Commentary]

Nard Or Ointment Of Spikenard: 

The name of both a plant and the fragrant oil it yielded. Since 
it was very expensive, Mary's act of devotion was costly. [NIV SB 

A precious spice imported from North India, was sweet, red, and 
smelled like gladiola perfume. Twelve ounces of nard cost a year's wages 
(12:5). [NLT SB]  

Translated "ointment of pure nard" in Mark 14:3, margin.  Not 
all agree that pistikos means "pure," "genuine." Some suggest the 
meaning "liquid." Others consider pistikos a local name. For a 
description of the ointment see on Luke 7:37. [SDA Bible Commentary] 

Anointed His feet:

Matthew (ch. 26:7) and Mark (ch. 14:3) state that the ointment 
was poured on the head. Doubtless Mary performed both operations, 
with each gospel writer noting but one. Luke, like John, mentions the 
anointing of the feet (Luke 7:38). [SDA Bible Commentary] 

Mary also anointed Jesus' head (see Matt. 26:7; Mark 14:3). The 
custom of that time was to anoint the heads of guests. Anointing Jesus' 
head was an act of honor; anointing His feet was a display of 
devotion. [Nelson SB] 

According to Mark, Mary also anointed Jesus' head (Mark 14:3), 
and the perfume ran down and scented his garments (Mark 14:8). [NLT 

Her hair: 

Women never unveiled their hair in public (see Luke 7:38). Mary 
was acting with extravagant abandon and devotion. [NLT SB]  


This ointment or perfume was made from an aromatic herb (also 
called spikenard) from the mountains of India, and it was imported in 
alabaster bottles. This expensive imported item carried such value that 
people used it for investment purposes, as gold is often used today. 
According to 12:5, this particular nard was worth 300 denarii (the 
equivalent of a year's wages of a working man). When supper was finished, 
Mary took this pure, expensive perfume and poured it on (literally, 
"anointed") Jesus' feet. Nard was used to anoint kings; Mary may have been 
anointing Jesus as her kingly Messiah. [Life Application Commentary] 

The perfume that Mary used to anoint Jesus was worth some 300 
denarii, equivalent to a year's wages. Perfume was imported into 
Palestine, and because of its value was often purchased as an investment. 
The nard Mary poured on Jesus' feet may well have represented her 
life savings. [The 365-Day Devotional Commentary] 


  This ointment was a symbol of the overflowing heart of the 
giver. It was an outward demonstration of a love fed by heavenly 
streams until it overflowed. And that ointment of Mary, which the 
disciples called waste, is repeating itself a thousand times in the 
susceptible hearts of others.   
  The Lord God is profuse in His gifts to our world. The 
question may be asked, Why does the Lord show such waste, such 
extravagance in the multitude of His gifts that cannot be enumerated? The 
Lord would be so bountiful toward His human family that it cannot be 
said of Him that He could do more. When He gave Jesus to our world, 
He gave all heaven. His love is without a parallel. It did not stop 
short of anything. . .  
  To human reasoning the whole plan of salvation is a waste of 
mercies and resources. They are provided to accomplish the restoration 
of the moral image of God in man. The atonement is abundantly able 
to secure to all who will receive it, mansions in heaven. The 
supposed prodigality of Mary is an illustration of the methods of God in 
the plan of salvation; for nature and grace, related to each other, 
manifest the ennobling fullness of the Source from which they flow (MS 
28, 1897).  {5BC 1101}   

  Mary seemed drawn to the feet of Jesus. It is not surprising 
that of all those who followed Jesus, Mary was the one to anoint His 
feet. The disciples would have their opportunity to show the same 
love, but pride would prevent them (John 13:12-13). Martha, too, was 
prone toward acts of service, but she had developed a different kind 
of relationship with Jesus than Mary had. While Martha had labored 
on Jesus' behalf in the kitchen, Mary had joyfully sat at Jesus' 
feet and listened to Him teach (Lu 10:38-42). Because Mary had come 
to know and love Jesus in this way, she was ready to humble herself 
and offer this poignant expression of love to Him. Such depth and 
sincerity of love comes only through spending time in close fellowship 
with Jesus. 
  The way we express our love for Jesus depends on the kind of 
relationship we have developed with Him. Our love for Him will not grow 
unless we spend time with Him, listen to His voice, and experience His 
love for us. If we find that our love for Jesus has waned or that we 
struggle to serve Him, it is a clear sign that we must take time to sit 
at His feet. We may have been involved in Christian activity on His 
behalf and yet neglected our relationship with Him. After we have spent 
time in intimate fellowship with our Lord, and after we have heard 
His voice and received His love, we will be prepared to serve Him, 
even laying down our life for Him if that is what He asks. 
[Experiencing God Day by Day by Henry and Richard Blackaby re John 12:3] 

It would be well to spend a thoughtful hour each day reviewing 
the life of Christ from the manger to Calvary. We should take it 
point by point and let the imagination vividly grasp each scene, 
especially the closing ones of His earthly life. By thus contemplating His 
teachings and sufferings, and the infinite sacrifice made by Him for the 
redemption of the race, we may strengthen our faith, quicken our love, and 
become more deeply imbued with the spirit which sustained our Saviour. 
{Mar 77.4}   

Many centuries later we are still humbled by the extravagance 
and the appropriateness of Mary's gift. She poured out the very best 
she could find. Price is not the central issue, but the sincere 
expression of faith and love. We render similar honor to Jesus when we 
practice faithful service wherever God has placed us--at home with 
children, at the office, leading a company, running a financial 
institution, teaching, preaching, etc. Faithful, honest, diligent service 
done as unto the Lord can be a gift to God. It is costly. Often 
others might think the effort wasted, for it seems to make no large or 
permanent change in the world. But what others may call insignificant or 
wasteful, God deems to be like the fragrant aroma that filled the house 
when Mary poured the nard on Jesus' feet. [Life Application 

There is always something beautiful and fragrant about what we 
do out of love. No act performed out of a mere sense of duty, or 
out of obligation, can fill the air with that kind of fragrance. 
[The 365-Day Devotional Commentary] 

Are the places where you go filled with Christ's fragrance 
because of you (2 Cor. 2:15-16)?  [Chapter by Chapter Bible Commentary 
by Warren Wiersbe re John 12]