Been thinking about a good question that was raised a couple weeks ago as our Sunday school class studied the account in Luke 7 of a woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her hair and her tears and anointed His feet with precious ointment. Below is a summary of the account in each of the 4 gospels.
- Two days prior to Passover
- In Bethany at the house of Simon the leper
- In the house of Simon the leper
- A woman with an alabaster box of very precious ointment pours it on His head
- The disciples' indignation because much money could've been given to the poor
- Judas agrees to sell the Lord and begins seeking opportunity to betray Him
- Two days prior to the Passover feast
- In Bethany at Simon's house
- A woman with an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard brake the box and poured the ointment on Jesus' head
- Some had indignation at what they perceived to be a waste
- Judas agrees to betray Jesus and begins seeking a convenient time to do so
- Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to supper
- A woman in the city, a sinner, brought an alabaster box of ointment
- She stood behind Jesus weeping then washed his feet with her tears and did wipe them with the hairs of her head
- Kissed His feet then anointed His feet with ointment
- Simon offended that Jesus allows a sinner to touch Him
- Jesus tells the story about the two debtors
- Jesus forgives the woman's sins
- Jesus goes throughout every city and village preaching, followed by Mary Magdalene
- In Bethany they made him a supper and Martha served
- Mary (of Bethany) took a pound of ointment, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped His feet with her hair
- Judas (Simon's son) is indignant not because he cared for the poor but because he was a thief
- Jews came to see not only Jesus but Lazarus, the man He raised from the dead
- Triumphal entry the next day
- Greeks are present to worship at the feast
- Chapters 13-17 in the upper room on the eve of Jesus' crucifixion
The timeframe, the location, and many of the details line up in the Matthew, Mark, and John accounts. The main difference would be – as was pointed out in class – that in Matthew the ointment is poured on Jesus' head and in John His feet are anointed. While both could definitely be true of the same event, it is instructive to recognize why Matthew would choose to record the anointing of Jesus' head (his gospel shows Jesus as King of the Jews) and why John would write of Mary's anointing Jesus' feet (his gospel shows Jesus as the Son of God – deserving of worship).
It seems to me, however, that what we read in Luke is, in fact, a separate account. Remember that Luke – like Mark and unlike Matthew and John – is written chronologically (Luke 1:1-4). And though Jesus is at the house of the same man, and a woman anoints Him with precious ointment, the events recorded fall far prior to 2 days before the Passover. You will also notice that Judas' indignation at the "waste" and his agreement to betray the Lord are missing. Rather the indignation is on the part of Simon (probably Judas' father) and is due to the fact that Jesus allowed a sinner to handle Him in such a manner. Also, only Luke mentions the tears of the woman, which were used to wash Jesus' feet. In John, the ointment is what Mary wipes with her hair.
While John makes it clear that the woman in the Matthew and Mark accounts is Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, the identity of the sinner woman in Luke 7 is unclear. Many have linked this woman with the Mary Magdalene mentioned in 8:2, but with no conclusive evidence to support the claim, we can only consider it an interesting possibility.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.