notre dame montreal

Anointing with Oil

Sermon preached at a family Service by The Reverend Charles Royden

The following is really a children's sermon delivered at the family service. It has the visual use of perfume. However the message of this story is profound for all of us.

Bible Passage 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 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 perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. "Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

Last night I was due to go out and visit friends. Much as I wanted and looked forward to going I was very tired and felt a bit miserable. So wanting to be good company for my guests I decided to go and have a refreshing shower with Radox. The secret herbal essences are supposed to be so very good for us to enliven our bodies and minds. Whatever, after a shower I felt great and ready to go out.

This option was not open for Jesus or his disciples. No showers! But they could wash their feet in a bowl and this must have been for them such a refreshing thing to do in a hot dusty country. Of course it was not the done thing to wash the feet of other people, any more than today it is considered appropriate to wipe somebody else's nose. Only a slave would consider doing such a thing. But in our reading today we are told that Mary poured perfume over Jesus and washed his feet and wiped them with her hair and the house was filled with the fragrance.

  1. Does anybody here have a mummy who has perfume bought for her?
  2. Who buys the perfume?
  3. Now how much do they spend?
  4. How much would the men think to be a lot of money to spend on perfume?
  5. How much would you have to spend to get one which was able to fill the whole house with the fragrance?
  6. Just think of what we would say today if somebody spent a whole years salary, say 20k on a bottle of perfume and used it all up in one go!

I have brought some of my wife's perfume along today. I have tried to get her used to Boots No7 but she stubbornly refuses and likes instead Channel. Listen to how they describe Channel No5 on their website - quote...'it has so many tones of smell', and it is an artificial fragrance. Now listen to what they say about Co-Co, which is my favourite, 'it has a background smell of wood and leather'.

At this point we will provide perfume for anybody in church who would like to be sprayed with it. The whole church will smell of perfume, as did the house of Jesus on that special day of anointing.


What this woman did was outstanding. She gave Jesus not just words or promises about her love. She put those words into direct action. She did not consider the cost because her love was greater than financial considerations. We need so very much to learn the lesson which Jesus understood about generosity when he publicly approved of what she did. So often when we give to God we do count the cost, we measure the time and make sure that we are not 'going over the top.' When we are responding to the love of God in Christ Jesus we cannot afford to be less than extravagantly generous.

Other thoughts Oil is used for very special things in the Bible The woman did a beautiful thing for Jesus but it has been recognised that it has other significances. A little while ago we set a special stone in Bedford Cemetery and I anointed it with oil and said prayers. It was a stone to remember all the babies who had been buried in communal graves without proper markings or dignity over many years previously. In some ways it was an atonement for the past wrongs. I remember it well because I noticed as a I poured the oil over the rock that it seemed to seep into the stone and I imagine that the stone will for ever hold the mark of the place where the oil was poured. Oil is used for anointing things and making a special statement of prayer It is also used for anointing people. It might be if somebody had a special need, when they felt that they needed God's help—like when they're sick—then we anoint them. It comes from the Bible, where it says that we're supposed to anoint those who are sick with oil, and pray for them (James 5:14-16). Have any of you ever seen someone anointed? We put a little oil on their forehead. As we do, we say something like: "You are anointed for forgiveness, for strength, and for healing." And we pray for them. There's more to it than that, of course. But that's the big part. In the Bible people were anointed also when they became kings, they put oil on kings when they became kings. They just poured oil on their heads and let it run down all over them. Does that sound weird? Why do you think they did that? It was just part of the ceremony making them a king. They were "anointed." Does anyone know what the word "Messiah" means? "One who is anointed" by God. In another language the word is "Christ." Have you heard that word? Yes, Jesus was "Christ", anointed by God, like a king. And so when the woman poured the perfume over Jesus it has been noted that she was in some ways also performing a very special anointing of Jesus