The significance of anointing with oil is about being set aside for a specific, sacred and God-ordained role. Ceremonially conferring a divine purpose on that person or object.
Significance of Anointing in Moses Tabernacle
Everything in the Tabernacle of Moses was anointed with specially made, fragrant oil, and set aside as being sacred. Everything consecrated could only be used in a holy function.
The priests also were anointed, Exodus 40:15. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and took the anointed vessels. He carried them to Babylon and placed them in the temple of his gods, 2 Chronicles 36:7. This was an extreme act of disrespect toward the captured Israeli people.
Significance of Anointing in Coronation Ceremonies
David, the young shepherd boy, was anointed three times. The prophet Samuel first anointed David privately, with only his family as witnesses, 1 Samuel 16:13. This was much to the annoyance of his family. The second anointing of David was by the men of the house of Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, 2 Samuel 2:4. Finally, David was anointed as king over all Israel, 2 Samuel 5:3. David went on to become Israel’s greatest king, reigning 40 years.
This sacred ceremony was seen recently in the coronation of King Charles. It represented the monarch’s consecration to rule in the role of Head of State. It also symbolised divine favour, spiritual enablement, and authority. The oil that was used had been created and consecrated in Israel, giving the anointing an historical link to the ancient and sacred custom.
Anointing of Jesus
Jesus was anointed three times in the same manner at David had been. Jesus would ultimately sit on the throne of David as proven in the genealogy of Matthew 1. His first anointing was at the beginning of His ministry and twice at the end. Many confuse the last two anointings by trying to make them one incident. This creates a contradiction, which is something the Bible never does.
First Anointing, Luke 7:36-50
A Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him early in His ministry. The Pharisee neglected to offer Jesus the normal courtesy of a host. This involved a servant washing the dust off the guest’s feet.
While sitting at the meal a woman of low repute approached Jesus holding an expensive alabaster box of ointment. She stood behind Him weeping and bent down and washed His feet with her tears. She kissed them, then wiped them dry with her hair.
The Pharisee thoroughly disapproved of the woman’s actions, receiving a strong rebuke from the Master.
Second Anointing, John 12:1
Six days before the Feast of Passover Jesus was eating in the house of Martha and Mary in Bethany, prior to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The resurrected Lazarus was also there. Mary took a pound of expensive ointment of spikenard and anointed Jesus’ feet. She then wiped them with her hair as a sign of her deep devotion, as well as her sorrow at His predictions. It would be natural for Mary to offer the Master her very best – valuable ointment that had come from India. Mary would have known about the early anointing in His ministry, where the woman had washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, Luke 7:36-50.
Judas Iscariot demanded to know why the ointment had not been sold and the money given to the poor. However, Iscariot was a thief and he saw a lot of money disappear before his greedy hands could get hold of it. Jesus told Iscariot to leave Mary alone, as she had anointed Him for His burial. Note, only one voice was raised in objection on this occasion.
Third Anointing, Matt 27:6ff; Mark 14:1ff
Two days before the Feast of Passover Jesus dined in the house of Simon the leper, in Bethany. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem had taken place, when many had acknowledged Jesus as Messiah. However, His enemies were closing in on Him.
The city was in chaos with thousands of visitors for the Feast of Passover and pressure was coming from the Temple hierarchy. Jesus was a prominent and powerful figure, having ministered throughout Israel for over three years. He had worked many miracles and preached about the Kingdom of Heaven. He had openly told His followers He would be betrayed and crucified, Matt 26:1, though He would rise again on the third day.
An unnamed woman approached Jesus with an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard. Breaking the box, she poured the contents on His head. This was the custom of anointing a king, as was done to David.
Several present voiced their indignation at the use of such precious ointment. Jesus said a similar thing He had said to Mary, for she too had anointed His body in preparation for burial.
The Significance of Jesus’ Anointing
The two women anointed Jesus with highly perfumed oil, pointing to His sacrifice, burial, and resurrection. Jesus’ sacrifice redeemed the greatest weapon Satan has against humanity – death. That which was lost in the Garden of Eden through sin, was regained, but this time it would be eternal life.
The significance of the anointing was also in recognition of His divine authority and messianic role. He earned the right to become the King of people’s heart and to reign for ever, with all His enemies under His feet, 1 Corinthians 15.25.
Just as the three anointings of David called and set him aside for a God-appointed task, so Jesus, the Son of Man, was set aside for a divine task. David was prophetic of Jesus, the King of Kings, who will rule in the millennium, with Israel finally in its God-appointed position.
Significance of Anointing in the New Testament Church
The Apostle John speaks of the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament church, 1 John 2:27. This enabling power of God is available for all believers, though many downplay it. That is like sitting in a car and starting the engine, but not using the accelerator.
The Holy Spirit comforts, guides and enables the believer. However, it also gently penetrates deep into painful areas that need a touch from the Lord. Areas that need to be healed, and renewed, enabling us to live truly free lives. Our sins are drowned in God’s sea of forgetfulness.
Wendy Tendys is a freelance writer who enjoys in researching out a topic and sharing words of encouragement.