Some Bible students find interest in realizing that Jesus’ feet were anointed with oil and wiped with a woman’s hair on two different occasions. Sometimes these two events get confused as one event, because of the similarities between them, but they are definitely two distinct times in the life of Jesus. Let’s consider them.
The first anointing took place in Luke 7:36-50. Luke is the only gospel record to include this event. Unfortunately, some Bibles place a footnote with a cross-reference to Matthew 26, Mark 14 and John 12. This is an obvious mistake on their part (when the passages are all studied in context) and has led to confusion for some Bible students.
The second anointing took place in John 12:1-8, more than a year after the first anointing in Luke 7. This anointing is also recorded in parallel accounts in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9. Again, some translations have a cross-reference to Luke 7, which confuses a Bible student with misinformation. Let’s compare these events.
The first event took place in Simon the Pharisee’s home (Luke 7:36, 40), somewhere in Galilee. The second event took place in Simon the leper’s home in Bethany (Matt. 26:6; Mark 14:3). Two different Simons. Two different homes. Two different cities.
The first woman is described as “a woman in the city who was a sinner” (Luke 7:37), but she is not named. The second woman is identified as Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha (John 12:3; 11:2). Both women brought fragrant oil, both anointed Jesus’ feet, and both wiped His feet with their hair (Luke 7:37-38; John 12:3). The first woman also washed “His feet with her tears…and she kissed His feet” (Luke 7:38). It may be that the first woman recognized her sinful condition before the sinless Jesus and was seeking forgiveness, since Jesus did forgive her “many” sins (Luke 7:47-50). But, Jesus specified that the second woman (Mary) was preparing “My body for burial” (Mark 14:8). Two different women. Two different occasions. Two different purposes.
Some have mistakenly tried to identify the first woman as Mary Magdalene, but there is NO Biblical evidence whatsoever to warrant such a claim. Any attempt to do so teaches something that the Bible absolutely does not.
Studying the Bible can and should be fun. There is so much to learn and so much to apply. Both of these women recognized the greatness of Jesus and their need to take a place of humility before Him. And, in doing so, both of these women were commended by Jesus. May we recognize our place before our Master and willingly serve at His feet!