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mercies towards them. Martha, we are informed, , served at table, as she had done also on a previous occasion *; for this, as well as some other servile offices, might perhaps not unusually be performed by women of condition, as it is now in some parts of Asia and Africa, in token of their submission and affection. “Then Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” People at that time used not to sit at their meals, as we do now, but to recline on couches, in such a manner, that the body of the first lay behind the second, and the head of the second came even with the breast of the first, their legs being supported on the hinder part of the seat. In this situation, it is easier to conceive how Mary should anoint the feet of Jesus (as it is said by St. John), than his head (according to St. Matthew and St. Mark). But, I conclude, that both took place; which might very well be, if Jesus occupied the “uppermost place” of the couch ; so that nobody lay behind him. St. Luke has likewise recorded an instance of a woman, who, while Jesus sat at meat in the house of a certain pharisee, “brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment *.” Though in some respects this nearly resembles the account of John, Matthew, and Mark, (who all speak of the same event); yet it differs so much in time, and place, and persons, and observations, as to make it probable that it was altogether a separate transaction; which, if it be so, only shews that such a practice was not singular, and might perhaps be no uncommon expression of respect. It is well known that perfumes were formerly in great request, and are still much used in some eastern countries.
* Luke x. 40.
Ver. 4. Judas Iscariot is called “Simon's son,” not for the sake of pointing out the father of one so infamous; but to distinguish this Judas from any other of the same name, especially from “ Judas the brother of James t," who was likewise one of the Apostles. Therefore, in a subsequent place, St. John describes Judas the brother of James by the addition “not Iscariot I,” because afterwards Judas Iscariot became the most no
* Luke vii. 37. Ibid. vi. 16. Chap. xiv. 22.
torious. Perhaps Simon the leper may have been the father of Judas Iscariot, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus; and it may have been at his house in Bethany that Jesus usually lodged when he went up to attend the festivals at Jerusalem.
Ver. 7. “Against the day of my burying hath she kept this.” From these words of Jesus we are not to understand that any embalming was necessary, or had been foretold as appertaining to the character of the Messiah. They shew only that his mind was at this time strongly impressed with the sense of his approaching death, of which he took this opportunity to warn his disciples, not without a gentle reproof against making the poor a pretence either for covetousness, or for calumny.
Ver. 9. The report of the miracle lately performed upon Lazarus had deservedly excited much attention in Jerusalem ; and many of the Jews, upon hearing that Jesus was at Bethany, flocked to see him, and likewise to satisfy their curiosity respecting Lazarus. For they must have contemplated his death and resurrection, if it were found to be true, as a strong confirmation of Jesus being the promised Messiah. Accordingly we are told that many of the Jews “ went away, and
believed on Jesus ;” that is, they returned from Bethany fully convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. But the chief priests persisted in their opposition, and, with the true spirit of persecution, thought to root out all further inquiry by cutting off at once both Jesus and Lazarus.
Ver. 12. “The hour being now come that the Son of Man should be glorified,” he forbad not the people, as before; but suffered them to conduct him into Jerusalem in a sort of triumph. And they “ took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna, blessed is the King of Israel, that cometh in the name of the Lord.” It should be known that these words are taken from the 118th Psalm, and used to be sung by the Jews at the festival of the passover. It had been prophesied by Zechariah *, “ Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Accordingly Jesus came “sitting on an ass's colt.” This appears to have been in imitation of a ceremony of distinguished honor. For so Solomon made his public entry upon king David's mulet; * Chap. ix. 9.
+ 1 Kings i. 89.
so likewise Mordecai was “ brought on horseback through the street of the city *.” Many of the circumstances preceding, and accompanying the crucifixion, had been foretold by the Holy Spirit with increased minuteness as the event drew nigh; but such is the nature of prophecies, that they were not at first understood; “ but when Jesus was glorified, then the disciples remembered that these things were written of him.”
Ver. 23. There is something very affecting in the concluding discourses of Jesus previous to his death. This is in some degree true of every body at that time, when the prospect of death opens to his view, and the world is closing fast upon him for ever. Therefore the last words of a dying man have always been held sacred, and remembered with fondness. But in the case of Jesus, how is the interest increased! Who can comprehend the mystery of God dying for us? How precious should be the last accents that flowed from his mouth! They are full of dignity, of resignation, affection, instruction, and earnestness. His very first address to his disciples at this time is drawn from the sense of his approaching death ; intima
* Esth. vi. 11. See also Judges x. 4. and xii. 14. likewise 2 Sam. xvi. 2.