The week that Jesus spent teaching in the courtyard of the temple prior to His crucifixion seemed to bear much fruit. The crowds of people were impressed and apparently were convinced that He was the Messiah or at least a prophet. The chief priests saw that they were in danger of being undermined in their teachings as Sadducees and also overthrown in their political authority. Something had to be done as quickly as possible.
Their dilemma was that if they arrested Him or killed Him, the crowds might riot on Jesus’ behalf (Mark 14:2).
Matthew’s narrative implies that Jesus went to the house of Simon the leper two days before the Passover—that is, Wednesday evening (Matt. 26:2)—where He was anointed with a “very costly perfume” (Matt. 26:7). This is confirmed in Mark 14:1-3, where we are told that the perfume was spikenard, an essential oil imported from India.
However, John 12:1-3 tells us of a similar anointing that occurred “six days before the Passover” and that it occurred at the feast celebrating Lazarus, who had just completed his seven days of cleansing. After being raised from the dead on the first of Abib, he was fully cleansed on the eighth of Abib, and so the feast was held that evening. John also informs us that Mary was the woman in question, and that she had anointed His feet (John 12:3).
It appears that this was an earlier anointing than the one recorded by Matthew and Mark, for they tell us that on that second occasion, the woman anointed Jesus’ head (Matt. 26:7; Mark 14:3). Both anointings occurred in Bethany, but we are not told the name of the woman who anointed Jesus on this occasion. It was probably a different woman.
In the first anointing, John 12:5 says that the value of the spikenard was “three hundred denarii,” whereas the later anointing was valued at “over three hundred denarii” (Mark 14:5). This difference indicates a second anointing. Only wealthy people could afford to buy spikenard, showing that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were from a wealthy family.
All of these details show that Jesus was anointed twice, once on Saturday, Abib 8, the evening before Jesus (first) Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and then again on Wednesday, Abib 12, two days before the Passover. This is another indication of John’s desire to fill in other details that had been omitted in the earlier gospel accounts.
Spikenard is from two Greek words, nardos, which is a foreign word, and pistis, which is the Greek word for “faith.” It is literally “oil of faith,” or “faith-oil.” In the Hebrew, however, the root word for faith (aman) is also the root word for truth. So perhaps the anointing with spikenard, which caused the disciples to object on account of its cost, is a reference to Prov. 23:23, “buy truth and do not sell it.” It may also be connected to the messianic prophecy to David in Psalm 132:10, 11,
10 For the sake of David Thy servant, do not turn away the face of Thine anointed [Messiah]. 11 The Lord has sworn to David, a truth from which He will not turn back: of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne.
By anointing Jesus with spikenard, Mary’s faith established the truth that Jesus was the Messiah, who was to take the throne of His father David, according to God’s promise.
Luke omits both of these “anointing” stories, choosing to focus directly on the circumstances of Jesus’ betrayal. Both Matthew and Luke tell us that immediately after this anointing with spikenard, Judas made his final decision to betray Jesus (Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10, 11). Here is where Luke’s account picks up the story. By comparing the three accounts, we know that this anointing took place two days before Passover (Wednesday evening), and this supposed waste of money angered him sufficiently to betray Jesus.
Luke 22:1 says,
1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.
Luke’s date is not as precise as we see in Matthew and Luke, but we know that it was two days before the Passover. Luke 22:2 continues,
2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put [anaireo, “take up and carry off”] Him to death; for they were afraid of the people.
Dr. Bullinger comments on this saying,
“Therefore their aim was to take him secretly and evade a public trial.” [Notes on Luke 22:2 in The Companion Bible]
In other words, they had concluded that because Jesus was so popular among the people, their only option was to kidnap and assassinate him without a public trial. Although the people would certainly suspect them of the murder, they would have plausible deniability. But, of course, such a plan did not coincide with the divine plan. When Judas came to them, they realized that he would be useful as a key inside witness against Jesus. Luke 22:3-6 says,
3 And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. 4 And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 And he consented and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the multitude.
Matt. 26:15 adds that the chief priests paid Judas with “thirty pieces of silver.” This was similar to the “twenty shekels of silver” that was paid for Joseph after his brother Judah had betrayed him (Gen. 37:28).
Because of the secrecy of this meeting, little else is known of their conversation. The gospel writers knew only that Judas, being angry at the waste of money, had gone out from their midst on the night of the dinner in Bethany. They did not know at that time that Judas would betray them. But Jesus knew, because he understood how Judah had betrayed Joseph and also how Ahithophel had betrayed David when Absalom usurped his throne. Both stories prophesied of Christ.
The Prophecy Regarding Judas
Even as Jesus played the role of David, and the chief priests (led by Caiaphas himself) played the role of Absalom, so also did Judas play the role of Ahithophel. That the disciples later came to understand this is evident from the Scriptures they quoted when deciding how to replace Judas (Acts 1:15-26). Peter said in Acts 1:16
16 Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
Judas was a “guide” (hodegos), not so much because he led them to where Jesus was praying in the garden, but in the sense of a leader or teacher of the ignorant or inexperienced. In this case the chief priests did not know how to take Jesus, but Judas showed them the way. In this way, he guided them so they would fulfill the prophecies of David.
David himself knew nothing of Judas, but wrote of Ahithophel, his counselor and friend, who had often guided him in his decisions. Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather, and the circumstances of David’s marriage to her may have made him vulnerable later to Absalom’s claim that David was an unjust ruler. Years after the betrayal, David lamented his lost friendship with Ahithophel but also issued judgment against him.
Two of these passages about Ahithophel were brought up by Peter and applied to Judas. We read in Acts 1:20,
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, “Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no man dwell in it”; and “His office let another man take.”
The first is taken from Psalm 69:25, and the second from Psalm 109:8. Psalm 69 is a Passover psalm which prophecies many things concerning Christ’s crucifixion. David complains in Psalm 69:4 about “those who hate me without a cause,” a verse quoted later in John 15:25 to show Jesus’ connection with David. Speaking of His enemies, David wrote in Psalm 69:24-28,
24 Pour out Thine indignation on them, and may Thy burning anger overtake them. 25 May their camp be desolate; may none dwell in their tents. 26 For they have persecuted him whom Thou Thyself has smitten, and they tell of the pain of those whom Thou hast wounded. 27 Do Thou add iniquity to their iniquity, and may they not come into Thy righteousness; 28 May they be blotted out of the book of life. And may they not be recorded with the righteous.
Here David clearly recognized the sovereignty of God, for he attributes his persecution to God smiting him. He understood that his enemies would have no power over him except that God had authorized it. So also did Jesus know that His coming persecution was His heavenly Father’s plan. They are not to be recorded as “righteous.”
Psalm 109:3 says his enemies “fought against me without cause.” This psalm too prophesies of Christ’s persecution and death on the cross. They had no lawful cause to oppose Jesus or to appeal to God against His claim to the throne. Psalm 109:6-20 speaks prophetically of Judas. Peter quotes verse 8.
6 Appoint a wicked man over him; and let an accuser stand at his right hand. 7 When he is judged, let him come forth guilty; and let his prayer become sin. 8 Let his days be few; let another take his office.
Perhaps David replaced Ahithophel with another counselor, but Peter saw this as a prophecy authorizing the disciples to replace Judas. When I discovered the connection between Judas and Ahithophel many years ago, I then understood how the conflict between David and Absalom (along with the betrayal by Ahithophel) was perhaps the most important prophetic story of Christ’s conflict with the chief priests.
Though I had been raised in the Church, I had never heard anyone teach about this. This astonished me, because the more I studied it, the more I realized how important it was to see this connection. In fact, one cannot truly understand the prophetic significance of Christ’s crucifixion without seeing how it fulfilled the story of David and Absalom.
When Absalom usurped the throne from David, David left Jerusalem without attempting to fight for the throne. He walked barefoot, weeping as he went, to the summit of the Mount of Olives, where he made a sacrifice (2 Sam. 15:30, 32).
All of this was rerun in the story of Jesus’ crucifixion on the summit (rosh, “head, skull”)—on Golgotha, “the place of the skull.”
Built into the story is the promise of David’s return. Jesus’ discourse in Luke 21 and in Matthew 24 prophesied of the signs of His return. When David returned, Absalom was killed by ten men (2 Sam. 18:15), even as the great whore of Mystery Babylon is killed by “ten horns” (Rev. 17:12, 16).
Absalom represents the Jewish leaders, led by Caiaphas, who killed the King and usurped the throne. Recall from Book 1 that Caiaphas was the brother-in-law to Theophilus, to whom this gospel is addressed. Theophilus replaced Caiaphas as high priest in 37 A.D. So the circumstances of Jesus’ crucifixion were known to Theophilus.
But Jesus rose again and ascended, giving the disciples a promise that He would return. David’s return to the throne also provided Jesus’ disciples with a promise of His return, as well as His successful claim to the throne.
Many think that God will again choose the household of the usurpers to rule with Him in The Age to come. But that view is contradictory to the account of Absalom’s fate at the return of David.
The Field of Blood
As for Ahithophel, he hanged himself (2 Sam. 17:23), even as Judas hanged himself (Matt. 27:5). The priests took the blood money that Judas had thrown at their feet and “bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers,” calling it the Aceldama, the Field of Blood. (Matt. 27:7). There they buried Judas too, as if he were a foreigner, that is, a non-Jew.
Luke omits the story of Judas, reserving it for his next book (Acts of the Apostles). As a prophetic type, however, we know that “the field is the world” (Matt. 13:38). The name Adam comes from the Hebrew word dam, “blood.” Hence, Judas’ burial in the Field of Blood signifies the burial of the old man, the fleshly Adam, because Adam was the original betrayer. The Last Adam now may arise in our hearts, making us co-heirs with Christ through the inner spiritual man that has been begotten in us by the Holy Spirit.
The old man is the carnal nature of the soul which all men inherited from Adam, who was made a living soul (1 Cor. 15:45). This problem soul is common to all men who have flesh and blood, and so it is represented by the “Field of Blood,” which is the world of flesh and blood. Hence, it is prophetic that the blood-price of the Messiah in His betrayal was used to purchase the field for Adam’s burial.