Mark 14:3 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Mark 14:3, NIV: "While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head."

Mark 14:3, ESV: "And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head."

Mark 14:3, KJV: "And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head."

Mark 14:3, NASB: "While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper, He was reclining at the table, and a woman came with an alabaster vial of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the vial and poured the perfume over His head."

Mark 14:3, NLT: "Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. "

Mark 14:3, CSB: "While he was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on his head."

What does Mark 14:3 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

All this week, Jesus has preached at the temple during the day and spent nights on the Mount of Olives (Luke 21:37). Bethany, where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus live, sits on the eastern slope of the mountain, about two miles from the temple. On the night before the Last Supper, Jesus has dinner with friends. No other information is given about Simon the leper; if he truly had leprosy, it was undoubtedly healed by this point.

Alabaster is a type of gypsum, a soft, white, translucent stone often used for sculptures. It vaguely resembles marble. When the woman "breaks" the flask, that most likely means she breaks the seal on the lid. The perfume nard comes from a plant found in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India. Mark 14:5 notes that it is worth about a year's wages of a day laborer. In cultures where women are not allowed to own property or money, they accumulate clothing and jewelry as investments. This perfume may have served the same purpose.

John mentions a very similar event dated four days earlier (John 12:1–8). Then, Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus' feet with nard and cleaned them with her hair. She, perhaps knowingly, identified Jesus as the ultimate Passover sacrifice. Some scholars think these stories are of the same event, but there are enough narrative differences to justify separating them. Certainly, the disciples are stubborn enough that it's believable Jesus would scold them for the same thing twice in one week (John 12:7; Mark 14:6).

Earlier in Jesus' ministry, a different woman anointed Jesus as He visited with a Pharisee named Simon (Luke 7:36–50). Simon was horrified that Jesus let "a woman of the city, who was a sinner" (Luke 7:37) touch Him. Jesus pointed out that while Simon had not performed the most basic traditions of hospitality, this woman openly showed her devotion and gratefulness by cleaning Jesus' feet with her tears and hair and pouring ointment on His feet. Jesus saw her actions came from her faith and declared her sins forgiven.