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Anointing (4)

H A Barnes, Bromborough

Anointing the Lord Jesus

During His ministry, two women anointed the Lord Jesus in circumstances that have led some to think, erroneously, that it was the work of only one. The Lord Jesus had been invited to a meal at the house of Simon the Pharisee, but Simon failed to perform the usual common courtesy shown to guests in washing Jesus’ feet. On hearing that He was in the house, a woman of the city (probably Capernaum) "which was a sinner" came into the house with "an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment" (Lk 7.37,38). The action of Simon was condemned by the Lord Jesus, but that of the unnamed woman was commended when He said, "My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment" (v.46). The ointment was used for the feet of the Lord Jesus, when Simon had not even offered simple oil for Jesus’ head. But as Robertson says, "This sinful woman had undoubtedly repented and changed her life and wished to show her gratitude to Jesus who had rescued her" (New Testament Word Pictures). Note that no mention is made of the price of the ointment, and that it was used to anoint Jesus’ feet.

Later, six days before the Passover, when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, and also at a meal, Mary of Bethany (Jn. 11.2) brought an alabaster box (or flask) of very precious ointment, containing a pound of pure spikenard. She poured it on Jesus’ head according to Matthew (26.7) and also anointed His feet according to John’s additional information (Jn 12.3). This led to criticism from the disciples, but commendation from the Lord Jesus, who commented that Mary had anticipated His death: "For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial" (Mt 26.12). The only common factors, apart from the quite commonplace name of Simon mentioned each time, between the actions of these women was that they both brought their ointment in an alabaster box, and the Lord Jesus was eating a meal at the time; otherwise everything else was different. Their specific actions were distinct, and their motives were diverse, although both did it in appreciation of the Lord, one thankful for His grace, the other anticipating His death.

At His death, although the preparation of the body of the Lord Jesus by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus was with spices, "a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight" (Jn 19.39), Luke tells us that the women, who obviously thought that more should be done, bought both spices and ointments (Lk 23.56), and brought them later to the tomb, but never used them!

The believer

As we have seen, the act of anointing with oil in Old Testament times expressed the divine declaration of choice, sanctification, and empowerment of prophets, priests, and kings, thus setting them apart and equipping them for divine service. Of course this meant that such anointing was not for all. However, this is not always the case in New Testament experience, where anointing can be for all, irrespective of gift or maturity.

We hear Paul telling the Corinthians, "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God" (2 Cor 1.21). In the immediate context, Paul, Silvanus and Timotheus, prominent Christian workers, who had been used to great effect in Corinth, were anointed, but they were but examples of all who believe.

However, all believers, even though they are "little children" in Christ (1 Jn 2.18), come into the blessing of anointing as mentioned by John – "But ye have an unction [same Greek word translated "anointing" in v.27 of the same chapter] from the Holy One, and ye know all things" (1 Jn 2.20), and "the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him" (1 Jn 2.27). The original anointing that all believers had at the new birth remains in them, and this anointing gives empowerment to know and discern the truth, so that they need not be seduced away from the truth (cp. Jn 16.13) where the Holy Spirit is the One who will guide into truth (see also 1 Jn 3.24; 4.13; 5.6).

Oil is, as we have said, symbolic of the Holy Spirit, "the familiar symbol of oil, by which the Spirit of all grace is so constantly represented in Scripture" (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown at Mt 25.4). This can be ascertained from the parallelism between such verses as "God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (Ps 45.7; Heb 1.9), and "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him" (Jn 3.34). The idea of the Holy Spirit being poured out like oil is often found. "I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit" (Acts 2.17,18), and then "on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 10.45).

General Conclusion

In everyday use, anointing was for comfort, courtesy, appearance, and appreciation. Used in its symbolic manner, anointing was an action indicating the divine declaration of choice and commissioning of prophets, priests, and kings, for divine service. It was originally carried out by men on God’s behalf, but in the New Testament we see that the anointing is direct and divine. The Holy Spirit is strongly connected with the symbol of oil (1 Sam 16.13), and now He is the One through whom we are sanctified (2 Thess 2.13; 1 Pet 1.2), thus choosing and empowering us for salvation and service, although the anointing is also seen as associated with the Father and the Son.



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