Who Poured Perfume on Jesus?

The anointment of Christ with expensive perfume is a much debated tale. Find out who poured the perfume, as well as why they did so.

By Alice Bassett
Edited by Joel Taylor

Published April 5, 2022.

To be anointed in a biblical sense means to have the favor of God. More literally, it means that an aromatic oil—or perfume or holy water—is poured or rubbed on you. Two days before Passover, we see the anointment of Jesus occur in the town of Bethany. There are multiple accounts of this in the bible, but not many mention the name of the woman who did so. It is only in the Gospel of John do we see that the woman was Mary of Bethany.

It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick." —John 11:12, NKJV

Why Mary Poured Perfume on Jesus

Mary entered the home of Simon the leper and anointed Jesus in front of his disciples with what all accounts in the Bible described as an expensive bottle of alabaster perfume. She then wiped his feet with her hair. Judas complained that the expensive perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

While the disciples complained about how distasteful it was, Jesus reminded them that it was an act of love and praise. We see here that she is anointing him in preparation for his burial, thus foreshadowing the crucifixion.

“The perfume was meant for the day I am buried. 8 You will always have the poor among you. But you won’t always have me.” —John 12:7, NKJV

This short moment in the bible shows us how Jesus has the favor of God, as that is what anointment signified at the time. It also teaches us to give our all to Christ, just as Mary of Bethany did with the perfume.