“Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick” (John 11:2 HCSB)
In the Greek this verse looks like:
“ἦν δὲ Μαριὰμ ἡ ἀλείψασα τὸν κύριον μύρῳ καὶ ἐκμάξασα τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς, ἧς ὁ ἀδελφὸς Λάζαρος ἠσθένει.” (John 11:2, UBS4)
The Greek language uses participles much more frequently than the English language and when it describes Mary, the text uses a participle. These are always difficult to translate. Some examples are:
- the one who anointed – HCSB, NRSV
- who anointed – ESV
- the one who poured – NIV
- which anointed – KJV
You get the point. Literally it reads: “Now it was Mary—the anointer of the Lord.”
Here’s what I like about this description. How cool is it that Mary gets to be in the Bible described as “the anointer of the Lord?” John doesn’t even get around to telling us about the incident until the next chapter (John 12.1-8), but already she is the Mary distinguished, not only because she is the brother of Lazarus, but because she is the “anointer of the Lord.”
Jesus will tell the disciples after Mary does anoint him that: “She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” (Mark 14:8, ESV).
Not only did Mary get to see her brother Lazarus raised from the dead, but she was the only one who was allowed to anoint Jesus body beforehand for burial. And so to all of history she will be “Mary, the anointer of Jesus.”
P. S. — By the way, if you have an hour, watch this broadcast by Dr. Peter Williams which helps explain exactly why John distinguished Mary as “the anointer of Jesus.” Fascinating.