St. Edmund's Church, Crickhowell

Encounters with Jesus -

The Woman at Bethany



After a series of bitter public controversies between Jesus and the religious authorities, Mark records a simple and private act of devotion. Stuart Blanch says, "There is a curious intensity about this passage."


Perfume plays an important part in this story. Share some of your fragrant recollections. Do certain smells remind you of particular places or events? Are there others that drive you to distraction?


Read Mark 14: 1 - 11

The woman

  1. The woman is given no name in Mark's account. Do you feel that in this way she represents us, the nameless masses of those who love Jesus?
  2. Is there any significance in the fact that it was a woman who performed this action ?

The perfume

  1. At what points in the stories in the Gospels are there reference to perfumes and spices? Is this story linked to them in any way?
  2. "She broke the jar." Careless? Or what?

The anointing

In other similar incidents in the other Gospels the women anointed Jesus' feet. The anointing of the head has always been, and is still, associated with kingship and coronation. The use of spices and fragrances was also associated with death and burial.

  1. What do you think that the anointing signified? Love, obviously, but what else?
  2. Do you think that the woman was aware of the significance of her action?

The reaction

  1. Is it suprising that this action provoked a strong reaction? How would you have felt if you had been there? Outraged? Embarrased? Or ... ?
  2. Doesn't the argument that the money might have been given to the poor carry some weight?
  3. Is it right for us to spend thousands of pounds maintaining our church building when there are homeless and starving people throughout the world?
  4. How should we set our financial priorities as a church?

The anointed one

The words Messiah and Christ both mean 'anointed one'.

  1. Have a look at the events which immediately follow this incident in Mark's gospel. Is the timing of this incident significant?
  2. What aspects of the character of Jesus appear from this story, especially in what he said about the woman?


And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
[John 12:3]

Throughout the Bible perfume and incense are always associated with prayer and praise. Offer to the Lord Jesus the perfume of your praise in song and prayer.



7/10   pgm   Last updated 22.11.2004