The Bible describes different instances in which women washed the feet of Jesus. This topic is worth discussing since some Christians wonder whether the different Bible Verses discussing the washing of Jesus’ feet refer to the same woman or different women. Who washed Jesus’ feet?
According to John 12:1-3, Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9, Mary of Bethany, the sister to Lazarus, and Martha, was one of the women that washed Jesus’ feet. Luke 7:36-39 also describes a different story of a woman that washed Jesus’ feet in Galilee. Many Christians believe that this woman is Mary Magdalene.
This article was written to cover the anointing of Jesus. It discusses Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus and Martha, washing Jesus’ feet, and Mary Magdalene washing Jesus’ feet. By the end of it, one can also learn whether the two instances are related. Read on to find out more!
Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus and Martha, washes Jesus’ feet
Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, is mentioned three times in the Bible. The story of her washing Jesus’ feet is directly mentioned in John 12:1-3. This book says six days before the Passover, Jesus, therefore, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, who Jesus had raised from the dead. So, they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. Mary, therefore, took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
When Judas Iscariot saw this, he criticized Mary, saying she was wasting expensive perfume that could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Though Mary did not respond to this criticism, Jesus defended her, saying that Mary had kept this perfume for his burial. Jesus praised Mary for doing a beautiful act of service.’
Some Christians also believe that other Gospels, like Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9, talk about Mary of Bethany washing Jesus’s feet. Even though in both Gospels, the name of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet is not mentioned, they argue that it is Mary of Bethany based on the similar events of these verses compared to John 12:1-3.
Matthew 26:6-13 says, Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and poured it on his head as he reclined at table. When the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying why this waste could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.
Many Christians believe that the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany alludes to the death and burial of Jesus Christ. This is because of what Jesus said after he was anointed. In John 12:8, Jesus said, For the poor, you always have with you, but you do not always have me.
Mary Magdalene washes Jesus’ feet
Luke 7:36-39 describes the anointing of Jesus by a woman who many Christians believe to be Mary Magdalene. This book says one of the Pharisees, called Simon, asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment. And standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of the head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee saw this act, he could not believe that Jesus could let a sinner touch him. Jesus told the Pharisee a parable about the forgiveness of debts. He said that Simon the Pharisee had arrogantly neglected to extend hospitality and show customary respect to him as a guest. At the same time, a sinful woman lavished her gratefulness and love upon Jesus. Since the woman’s actions moved Jesus, he forgave her sins. He later asked the woman to go in peace.
Those who believe this woman was Mary Magdalene further argue that this act points to Jesus’ identity as both the Messiah-King and a servant-King. Mary’s actions foreshadowed what Jesus was about to do on the Last Supper. On this day, Jesus would wash his disciples’ feet and teach them the importance of humble service, as explained in John 13:1-20.
Are these instances related?
Though the Bible suggests that different women washed Jesus’ feet, his anointing by Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene are related. This is because, in both stories, Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus with expensive perfume or ointment. Luke 7:36 mentions that the sinful woman came with an alabaster jar of perfume to anoint Jesus. In the story of Mary of Bethany washing Jesus’ feet, John 12:3 explains that she used an expensive ointment.
These two instances are related since the washing of Jesus’ feet represents the anointing with a messianic significance. According to the Bible, Jesus is God’s anointed Messiah. Messiah is a Hebrew word that means anointed. Matthew 1:16 says, And Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary, was the Mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
The two instances are also related since, in each case, both women appreciated Jesus’ worth more than anyone else at the gathering. In the case of Mary of Bethany, Martha Lazarus, and even Jesus’ disciples did not understand what Mary was doing. Judas Iscariot even criticized her for wasting expensive perfume, as explained in John 12:5. But Jesus is pleased with her action and compliments her for her good deed.
Mary Magdalene also appreciated Jesus’ worth more than anyone else at the dinner. The Bible says that the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner wondered why Jesus was allowing her to touch him since she was a sinner. Rather than appreciating the presence of Jesus in his house, he was quick to criticize Mary Magdalene and even said if this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman was touching him, as explained in Luke 7:39.
Though the similarities above show that the two instances are related, they also have some differences that show that more than one woman washed Jesus’ feet. For instance, in the case of Mary of Bethany washing Jesus’ feet, the Bible mentions the presence of siblings in John 12:2. This verse says Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. On the other hand, When Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet, there is no mention of any siblings. Luke 7:36-50 only mentioned the presence of Simon the Pharisee.
- What is the significance of Jesus being anointed by a woman with expensive perfume?
- Mary anointing Jesus
- Who was Mary of Bethany in the Bible
- Who was Simon the Pharisee
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.