In John 12 it is said that Mary had anointed Christ with an expensive perfume while he was at Lazarus house. Christ had alluded to this as the preparation for his burial.

John 12:3 NIV: Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But later after he had been buried some women went to his grave with some spices to anoint his body

Mark 16:1 NIV When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body

Why did the women want to anoint his body after it had already been prepared for his burial?

  • Hi collen - I notice you haven't Accepted any answers for this question, though both seem pretty good. Is there anything you think is missing from them?
    – Steve can help
    Nov 16, 2020 at 15:28
  • "Christ had alluded to this as the preparation for his burial" What are you referring to here? When does Christ make that link?
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 23, 2022 at 3:54

3 Answers 3


The anointing of Jesus prior to his burial was an expression of love and devotion. It was a spontaneous act. Also, whatever moved the anointing caused there to be an anointing which, otherwise, would not have happened as we see, later, that events precluded an anointing occurring.

Thus the women coming to the tomb came with a practical purpose. The previous anointing was insufficient for burial. The copious anointing of a body for burial is life-threatening if done to a living person. Spices are applied in quantity and the body bound up (see Lazarus). Suffocation could well occur to a living person.

So the women came with good and proper intent. But they would never get there in time. The prior anointing, whilst indicative, was insufficient to effectively preserve a dead body from corruption in the grave (the whole point of preservation by spices and binding).

Therefore, the prior anointing was perceptive, or moved by the perception of the Holy Spirit. For that was the only anointing that would ever occur.


Mary's symbolic anointing (at the dinner) was not an actual anointing - it was an act of love and thanksgiving in gratitude for all that Jesus had done for her.

When Jesus died so close to the Sabbath hour, there was not time to prepare Jesus' body by the customary anointings and wrappings. Indeed there had only been time to wrap the body in a sheet. So they came on Sunday morning to do the whole job. This was a complex task involving:

  • washings
  • covering with various oils and powders, etc, thus, "anointing"
  • Wrapping the entire body in cloth(s) and sealing it.

[The reasons for some of these customs is not always clear but they were abiding by the usual practice.]

Thus, Mary's act at the dinner (John 12) was symbolic and not actual nor complete as it only involved anointing with oil - the women in Mark 16 were about to do an actual (not symbolic) burial preparation with the full procedure.


Jesus' body was certainly fully prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. They brought a mixture of aloes and myhrr weighing ca. 100 lbs and bound Jesus' body with burial cloths. A ritual washing was likely not done since Jews consider a person's blood as important as their life and traditionally do not wash an injured body. It is also widely disputed (if not disproven) that it was not Mary Magdalen who annointed Jesus at the table.

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