Matthew 26:1-16 Part 4


God had overruled the thoughts and plans of men and had determined the last official, representative act of the priestly order – to prophesy “the event: and fulfill the purpose of its having been appointed and anointed.

Caiaphas had told the rest of the Sanhedrin that they didn’t know what they were saying.  But Caiaphas was the head of the Aaronic order of priests; and he didn’t know what he was saying – as the entire priesthood had long since ceased to know the mystery of its own vocation!

Caiaphas meant for the death of Jesus to appease (may I use the word?), propitiate the Romans by a crafty, tyrannous, unscrupulous murder… it would save the nation and preserve their positions and power!

But, as we now know, God was He Who was to be propitiated; and His people scattered throughout the nations were those who would be saved by Christ’s substitutionary death.

So, although he would not have had it that way, the high priest of Israel finally performed the one, true, great function for which he was constituted and anointed.  He prophesied the substitutionary death of Messiah!  For fifteen hundred years the priesthood was supposed to foreshadow the Real Priest of God.  He was the reality for which they existed.  The whole fifteen hundred years of their history essentially pointed to this one great event.  And God would have it no other way than for them to be that for which He had designed them.  And it was not a deterrent, at all, to God’s eternal design for the salvation of the world that the priesthood didn’t know what it was doing!

It has probably occurred to you, as it did to me, that there may be many ministers and elders and deacons and teachers today whose vocations are a complete mystery to them… just as it was for the priesthood and for Caiaphas in 30 AD.  It surely would be the case that we would have a more peaceful and orderly and more just society if it weren’t a mystery to so many.  At the same time that we grieve with the people of New Orleans this morning, we are reminded once again of the Awful Presence of the Risen Son of Man, Who will have it no other way in His Kingdom except obedience and submission.  And without lessening the guilt of individuals, families, and society as a whole, yet we may not forget the blame which is due those whose responsibility it is to preach Peace in Jesus Christ the Lord.  If they will not; and if the people will not repent, then there will be no peace.

Now, these were all the things that were occurring on that day (Tuesday) as Jesus was in the Mount of Olives.  And with them we complete our observations of the Biblical record of that day.

But Matthew records two more things before Passover.  And although the text doesn’t say so, these may have happened on Wednesday… we’re not sure.  Be that as it may, the apostle Matthew, with genius provided by the Spirit, now tells us of a moment which undeniably reveals Jesus as High Priest of God and Mediator of the Covenant, connecting Him with the entire corpus of Scripture regarding the priesthood and the sacrificial system.

As Israel’s high priest, Caiaphas performs that one, great function for which the priestly order was designed, the Aaronic priesthood is, at once, prophetically and functionally obsolete; because the One Who their entire existence was to foreshadow was here.  And Matthew connects it all by revealing what happened at Simon’s house in Bethany.  Let’s read it once again from the text, at verse six:


“Now, while Jesus was in Bethany, in Simon the Leper’s house, a woman having an alabaster of expensive unguent approached and poured it out on His head during His reclining at table.  But when they saw it the disciples were indignant saying, ‘Why this waste?  For it was possible for this to be sold and given to the poor!’  But understanding, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you handing troubles to the woman?  For a good work was being accomplished in Me.  You always have the poor with yourselves; Me, however, you don’t always have.  When she put this unguent on My body, she did it in order to prepare Me for burial.  Amen I say to you, wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole cosmos it shall also be uttered, ‘this woman did it,’ in remembrance of her.’”


First, we want to look at the text and the details for a few minutes; except for the fact that some of the disciples became irritated at the woman, Matthew doesn’t spend much time recreating the human dynamics for us (that’s his way… the history is important but, ultimately, it’s the setting for the “real” significance).  So it’s hard for us to imagine what happened and recreate it and relive it.  And, of course, that very difficulty leaves us with the impression that there is a much greater significance here than just the human event.  This woman believed Jesus – that He was to be crucified, dead, and buried.  She was preparing Him for burial.  But that’s not the greatest significance of this event!  And that’s where, secondly, we want to spend most of our time.

Now, Jesus has been in the area since the first day of the week… staying, with His disciples, in and around Bethany in the Mount of Olives.  The priests and pharisees don’t know exactly where He is; and for fear of the people they certainly wouldn’t send police, or troops, out there to get Him anyway!  There are thousands who followed Him into the city.

And apparently there is a community of followers who live there; numbers of people are mentioned in the Gospels… both men and women.  The man Simon (one of nine “Simons” named in the New Testament) is surnamed ‘the leper’ by Matthew.  He had a house in Bethany; and it looks as if he was one who had been healed of his disease by Jesus and was now one of His followers.  Several identities have been proposed for him, but nobody really knows exactly what his connections were to the other people around Jesus.

But it was at his house that Jesus and the disciples were being entertained and fed (they were “reclining at table”).  Then Matthew says, simply that, “a woman approached Him”.  He doesn’t say who she is, or what her connections are to the family, or what she’s doing there, or what she’s thinking or feeling – or anything.  Just what she did.  Matthew is writing the Gospel of Jesus Christ – not a novel, not history, not psychology… the Gospel!  And, by the Spirit, he writes down the things that are significant to the Gospel.

John and Luke are sometimes more descriptive of the people and the relationships between the people – such as the little concerns and tensions that existed between Mary and Martha due to their characters and personalities.  But, even then, the purpose in doing so seems to be – not the complexities of human relationships, but – the significance of Jesus’ response to them.  Matthew doesn’t even mention those.

But the reason I being up Mary and Martha is that some have proposed that there was a familial relationship between the household of Mary and Martha and Lazarus, and that of Simon the Leper; and that Mary (who had once washed Jesus’ feet with her hair) is the one who approaches Jesus here in our text.

And that’s fine.  It was certainly within Mary’s revealed nature to do this thing, because her devotion and her worship at the feet of The Christ had been exhibited in the Scriptures twice before.

But even if this woman’s name was Mary, it’s also necessary to say that Mary seemed to be the most common name in the New Testament Scriptures.  There were “Marys” all over the place.  The Greek is Maria; and the Hebrew is Miriam, which was the name of Moses’ and Aaron’s sister.

And all of that is interesting; and it’s interesting to speculate and to “warm up” to the personalities.  But take note of the fact that Matthew, at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t name this woman, or describe her.  He writes what she did.  And he writes what Jesus said about what she did.

And He said that what she did would be mentioned in the preaching of the Gospel all over God’s creation.  This is the word “Kerux” – proclamation; and the word “kerygma” – the center of the Gospel of God’s Anointed… that Jesus Christ was crucified, dead and buried; and that He arose on the third day and ascended to the Right of the Father.

It would be said that “this woman did it,” with respect to “the Preaching”.  “This woman did it” with respect to the “Kerygma” – the proclamation of the Gospel!  When… where….. this woman did it.

And even though some of the disciples (especially Judas) were irritated with her (can you imagine someone entering a room where there was a big dinner taking place, and pouring something all over one of the guests’ head and clothes?); and even though this very expensive product could have been used toward the relief of the poor; and even though this woman might not have known the full extent of the thing that she did (knowing, from Jesus’ Own prophecy that He was to be crucified, and therefore anointing His body for burial); even with all of this, Jesus, and (later) Matthew, consider this a prophetically significant event – far greater than just the facts about what happened.

But Jesus upbraids those who protested and “gave her trouble” about it… they didn’t understand any of it!  While they were feeding themselves, this woman was deeply moved and concerned with the coming crucifixion and burial of her Lord!  So much so, that she took the opportunity of His reclining at table to break an alabaster and pour its very expensive, especially formulated, contents on His head!  And it would have run down His face and beard and all over His clothes.  (Alabaster was a vase, or urn, formed by craftsmen out of onyx; and sometimes sealed to preserve precious contents over time.)

Surely, this alabaster and its contents could have been sold at the market for a tidy sum… and some poor people might have been consoled… for a time.  But, then, once the money was gone, the poor would still be poor – as the disciples were!  (The common quote here isn’t correct.  Most say “the poor will always be with you.”  But note the correct reading of the text, verse eleven:  “You always have the poor with yourselves.”  The pronoun here is reflexive – which includes the disciples!)

Jesus isn’t negating the value of comforting those in need – by any means!  So no one can quote this text (even correctly) to justify their neglect of duty.

But the situation concerning the imminent crucifixion and burial of God’s Christ (which means “the Anointed One”), and His subsequent departure and ascension to Power at the Right hand of the Father, required the employment of this precious ointment to a far greater use!  Jesus wouldn’t be with them much longer, and this “unguent” had a specific utility far beyond its use to the poor.  And far beyond its use as a burial ointment!

And now we’re going to see the significance of this woman’s deed; and we’ll then understand why Matthew puts this event in the same context with this last prophetic act of Israel’s high priest and the subsequent obsolescence of the Aaronic priesthood!

The word “Christ”, as I said before, means “Anointed One”.  All through the Older Testament text we find “anointings”.  And the use was to set certain chosen people apart unto the holiness of high office under God.

For example we see David being anointed king; and Elisha was anointed prophet-successor to Elijah… and so forth.  And the anointing was to signify the Spirit of God setting the man apart unto holiness, and sealing to him the spiritual qualifications needed to the discharge of his office.

When Samuel anointed David, the Scriptures say that the Spirit of God came upon him and was with him from that day forward.  It also says that the Spirit departed from Saul.  So, along with the sign, David received that which was signified in the anointing; and Saul, having forfeited his right, his former anointing became to him only an empty ceremony.

But it is only in Exodus chapter thirty that we find the full description of the anointing of the tabernacle and the priesthood – setting certain men apart to serve God in the holy place as holy mediators of the covenant.  And let’s remember that this is a shadow of things to come.

As God gives Moses the Law concerning the anointing oil, He says that Moses is to take specific quantities of four very costly fragrances – myrrh, cinnamon, calamos and cassia; and having prepared them properly they were to be mixed with a specific quantity of fine olive oil.  And here’s what he was to do with it:


“And you shall anoint the tabernacle of the congregation with it, and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its vessels, and the candlestick and its vessels, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt-offering with all its vessels, and the laver and its foot.

And you shall sanctify them that they may be most holy; whatsoever touches them shall be holy.  And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.

And you shall speak unto the children of Israel saying, ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil unto Me throughout your generations.  Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured; neither shall you make any other like it, after the composition of it; it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you.  Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.’”


And Moses made the holy oil and anointed everything in the tabernacle with it; and then poured it upon Aaron’s head, and it ran down into his beard and all the way down to the hems of his priestly garments.

Signifying the operation of the Spirit of God, the “oil of holy unguent” was to be made and used for the purpose of, and only for the purpose of, setting apart everything in the tabernacle – including the priest who served God in it!  The oil and the pouring of it signifying the Spirit.

The richness and diversity and exclusivity of the product shadow forth the excellence of the gifts of the Spirit of God which were, of course, conferred upon the Christ, Who “once entered the Holy of Holies having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of bulls and goats sanctified to the cleansing of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, Who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God?”

It was by the Eternal Spirit that Christ the Anointed One offered Himself without spot to God.  And it is Christ the High Priest Who entered once into that Holy of Holies.  And it is Christ our tabernacle Who was anointed by the Spirit and Who suffered by the Spirit and Who was resurrected by The Spirit.

He is the Holy of Holies, as prophesied by Daniel in chapter nine; He was consecrated by the Holy Spirit to be the High Priest and mediator between God and man – to make reconciliation by His blood; He is the Offerer and the Priest and the Offering and the Tabernacle – all sprinkled with precious ointment… all consecrated by the Spirit.

And it is by that same Spirit that we are made partakers in that holiness and set-apartness; for we are washed in the blood of Christ… by the Spirit; our prayers are consecrated… by the Spirit; we are made participants of all the virtues of Christ… by the Spirit.  And the flesh through which we are made partakers in Christ is administered… by the Spirit!

The Spirit of God sanctifies us and all that is ours; for without Him we are unholy… and all that is ours is unholy and corrupt.  He has set apart the tabernacle which is Christ; and we are now priests in Him serving and worshipping our Holy God.

Do you see the significance of what this woman did with this expensive unguent?  The old priesthood is gone… it’s obsolete.  The “shadows” give way to the reality, and Jesus the Christ of God is now anointed High Priest and Mediator – to go once into the Holy Throne-room of God having made the perfect sacrifice for men.  And as the tabernacle and all of its vessels was sprinkled with the oil of holy ointment, so here it is poured upon Jesus the Anointed.  And so we serve God in Christ our tabernacle; and we and all that is ours is made holy in Him.

Now, since He tabernacles with us, and since we abide in Him, shouldn’t the odors of the Anointed One be carried about on our persons and in our clothes?  Shouldn’t we smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia?  As we go shouldn’t we spread abroad the savors and aromas of the knowledge of Christ – which sanctify and separate all those upon whom it comes?

Or will we be as Solomon said in his striking, metaphorical style:  “Dead flies cause the ointment to send forth a stinking savor.”

An anointing of the Holy One with the unguent of Holy anointing separates us, in Christ, unto holiness.  So there is a sanctity about the Christian character which is to be kept inviolate.  No dead flies.  No stinking.  To all we must smell of the sweet savors of Christ, and communicate to all the excellencies of the gifts of God’s Spirit.  These are the true riches of the soul and the sealing title to an eternal inheritance.

The woman anoints the Anointed One with the Holy unguent.  The old priesthood is obsolete – its anointing an empty ceremony.  The real High Priest of God has come.  And what she did will be preached all over the Kingdom.