Have you ever been to an old fashioned southern church? You know the kind of place where you unable to stand still while you are worshiping the Lord. It is truly a full body experience. Billy Blank’s Tae-Bo has nothing on a worship gathering of this sort. Even during the preaching, people are moving and shouting. They would say that they have the anointin’ and that this force has taken over what is happening in the room. Now, I am not mocking church traditions that operate in this fashion and I am certainly not denying the power of the Holy Spirit flooding a church community (I happen to be a ‘closet charismatic’ myself), but simply drawing out the meaning of a word as I have seen it used in some Western contexts. This word would have meant something entirely different for Jesus and his followers in the First Century.
In chapter 1 of Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith, Spangler and Tverberg explain a the word in the following way:
“Anointing a guest with oil was a common, expected act of hospitality (see Luke 7:46). But Mary’s use of a breathtakingly expensive vial of perfumed oil in John 12 made her action hint at the anointing of a king… By anointing him with expensive fragrances, Mary may well have been making a statement about who she believed Jesus was, proclaiming him as Messiah. In fact, the Hebrew word for Messiah is Mashiach, which literally means ‘the Anointed One.’” (16)
In chapter one we find ourselves in Mary and Martha’s home. Martha is busy cooking and preparing a feast when Mary begins to pour expensive oil at the feet of Jesus. The obvious interpretation Jesus clarifies by stating that this action is to prepare for his burial, but there are some actions in Scripture that the original audience would have understood without having been explained with words (do you agree with this statement?). This indicates that Jesus is King!
It reminds us of the anointed kings in the Hebrew Scriptures. Solomon, the authors point out, is placed on King David’s mule and escorted to Gihon when Zadok the priest anoints this King before all the people. This is similar to what happens after our episode in John’s narrative, which leads to Jesus being placed on a donkey and escorted into Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful king (sorry folks, this isn’t a story about how meek and humble Jesus was… it is about him being KING!).
The fragrance of Jesus would have followed him for days, and everyone who would have been in his vicinity would have recognized the scent of royalty. So, who is the one with the anointin’? Well, it is not his followers, at least not directly; it is Jesus himself. He alone can be the Anointed One. He alone is the King of Jerusalem and the Cosmos. According to Paul, we may not be the Anointed Ones, but we are the fragrance of his Messianic anointing (2 Corinthians 2).
Here are the questions at hand: Do you have the Anointed One and are you living as the aroma of his Kingly rule over the world? Also, does this interpretation from Spangler and Tverberg raise any new questions or insights for you? Can we appropriate interpretations like this even if they are not bluntly explained in the text?