Passover (Pesach) is always a busy time of the year with many preparations to be done before the Feast.
Interestingly, the Gospel narratives provide many details of events that happened during the week preceding Passover nearly 2000 years ago. Both Matthew and Mark relate a statement by Jesus (Yeshua) that Passover was two days away and that He was going to be delivered up to be crucified. Concurrently, we learn that the leading priests and elders decided to arrest Yeshua and have Him killed. We also read at this time about an extravagant demonstration of love towards Yeshua that took place in a home in Bethany on the east side of the Mt. of Olives:
“…a woman came with an alabaster jar of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the jar and poured it over his head…” (Matt.26,7).
This alabaster jar (see Sar-El blog, 10.7.17) was most likely made of blown glass and was firmly stoppered to contain an expensive oil, valued at 300 denarii (approximately equivalent to a year’s wages of an unskilled labourer). The ointment itself (Gk. muron, probably derived from the Hebrew word “mor” – myrrh) was identified as “pure nard” (Gk. nardos, spikenard in some English translations). Most people understand that this essential oil is extracted from Nardostachys jatamansi, a plant originating in the Himalayas of Nepal, China and India.
Having said this, it is suggested by some that the word translated as “pure, genuine” (Gk. pistikos) is to be read as “pistakes” relating to the terebinth tree, Pistacia terebinthus, that is endemic to the Land of Israel and yields a very aromatic resin. Do not miss an opportunity to see this tree in the Hebrew University Botanic Garden for Native Plants on Mt. Scopus!
It is claimed that nard was frequently blended with other aromatic ingredients so when scented with the fragrant oil from the resin of terebinth it would quite well be called “nardos pistakes”. Thus it would constitute a local perfumer’s blend of essential oils in a base oil. We know that the anointing oil consecrated for use in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple was a mixture of different plant essential oils (Ex. 30, 22-33).
What is really important, however, about this story is Yeshua’s reaction to this woman’s extraordinary love and appreciation towards Him:
“…she has done a beautiful thing to me…When she poured this perfume on my body she did it to prepare me for burial…” (Matt. 26, 10,12).
Yeshua was acutely aware of what was before Him on that particular Passover and that for this purpose He had entered this world. He very much valued this sacrificial act of devotion towards Him and its significance in relation to His forthcoming death. He went on to state that wherever the Good News of God’s love through Yeshua would be preached throughout the world, this story would be told as a memorial to her.
Chag Pesach Sameach – Happy Passover Feast!