Mark 14:3-9 – Jesus is Anointed for Burial


Mark 14:3-9


An unnamed woman anoints Jesus with ointment in preparation for his death and burial.


The anointing of Jesus by an unnamed woman provides an opportunity for understanding the relationship between good works and following Jesus and serves to clarify two earlier episodes. First of all, it is important to note that there is no indication that the people who criticize the woman are acting hypocritically. The problem is not that they only feign interest in the poor; it appears from the context of the episode that they are genuinely concerned with selling the ointment and helping the poor. They are, after all, at dinner in the house of Simon the Leper, someone who would have been considered with suspicion by strict adherents of the Jewish law. These people are indignant because they understand their responsibility to give alms and care for the marginalized.

Jesus’ response to them, however, flies in the face of lazy Christian rhetoric that equates Christianity with caring for the poor and needy. Jesus directs their attention to the demands that he makes upon them. By anointing him, this unnamed woman shows that she understands Jesus’ coming death and what it means that he is the Messiah. In other words, this woman understands the Gospel, and because of this, Jesus proclaims that she will always be remembered wherever that same Gospel is proclaimed.

This is the third and most pointed episode in which Jesus seeks to underline the incompleteness of fulfilling the commandments for being his disciple. The rich young man went away because he couldn’t bear to leave his possessions and follow Jesus. The earnest scribe was close to the kingdom of God, but not there yet, because he did not yet follow Jesus. The unnamed woman, on the other hand, devotes herself entirely to Jesus. With her ointment of great price, she puts to shame the other would-be-followers of Jesus and shows true discipleship by anointing her master for burial.