Mary of Bethany poured out her all for Jesus when she broke open an alabaster bottle of perfume worth a year’s wages! Whether named or unnamed, each gospel account* tells of men complaining of her devotion—one said she was “the wrong kind” to be ministering to him, apparently thinking that her past life overshadowed her new one (Luke 7:39), while others thought ministering to Jesus was a waste of money! But Jesus defended her saying, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Matthew 26:10) She was, he said, doing a very special thing for him—anointing his body for burial; other things, as important as they were, could be done anytime but Mary’s was a special, one-of-a-kind task in time--so important that Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13) So, what this woman Mary of Bethany did for Jesus was so vital that the gospel is not properly preached without telling about her. (I don’t recall this having been said of anyone else.)
*I once was rebuked for saying in a Bible Study class that the four accounts spoke of one woman—Mary of Bethany. “The scholars say!”
Matthew 26:6-13 Bethany*Simon the Leper*alabaster/perfume*“sinful woman”*anointed for burial
Mark 14:3-9 Bethany*Simon the Leper*alabaster/perfume*a woman* anointed for burial
Luke 7:36-50 Pharisee,Simon* alabaster/perfume*“sinful woman”
John 12:1-11 Bethany* perfume*Mary of Bethany*anointed for burial
While the comparisons above are strong evidence the strongest is Jesus’ statement that, “wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13) Each gospel tells only of one woman, not two scenarios. If there were two different women then each of the gospels left out one or the other. It’s extremely unlikely that either Luke or John would have disobeyed Jesus and left out her story from the telling of the gospel (stated in Matthew & Mark). Why does it matter? Jesus did know who she was and welcomed her. Mary of Bethany often found herself at Jesus’ feet, learning from him and worshiping him because he had forgiven her for so much and on top of it all—he raised her brother from the dead!
Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross.
Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man--there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as "The women, God help us!" or "The ladies, God bless them!"; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deed of Jesus that there was anything "funny" about woman's nature.