Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. –1 Cor. 11:14,15 NIV.
My first visit to a church was probably when I was about 6 years old – some nearly eighty years ago. My mum would have a veil on her head and so would the other ladies in church. When I grew up it gradually changed. Some women would wear hats or scarfs instead of veils, I suppose in keeping with the times. The Apostle Paul says that the long hair is given to her as a covering. How much things have changed today! Few churches nowadays will require their women to wear some kind of head covering when they go to church.
In the last exhortation we were talking about women anointing Jesus’ feet and the wiping of his feet with their hair. What caught my attention in the verses above (1 Cor. 11:14,15 NIV) were the words, “ . . . but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” To be sure the apostle Paul was not talking about fashion, possibly not even about the covering of our heads physically with a veil but about headshipor leadership! Let me just restate the NIV version with what the Message Bible says:
13-16 Don’t you agree there is something naturally powerful in the symbolism—a woman, her beautiful hair reminiscent of angels, praying in adoration; a man, his head bared in reverence, praying in submission? I hope you’re not going to be argumentative about this. All God’s churches see it this way; I don’t want you standing out as an exception. Have you thought of a woman’s hair as “something naturally powerful”, “reminiscent of angels”? Let’s just go along with the other translations (NIV, KJV, ESV, NAS . . .) that a woman’s hair “is her glory”.
Interestingly enough, there were two women in the Bible both referred to as “Mary”. Both had anointed the feet of Jesus and have wiped Jesus’ feet with their hair. The first Mary(from Galilee, the Pharisee’s house, Luke 7) was thought to be Mary Magdalene. But contrary to common thought, she was not Mary Magdalene.
The other Mary (from Bethany) was recorded by three of the Evangelists – – John 12:1-8, Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9. They refer to the same person – the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Jesus loved all three of them. Lets gather the pieces of information from John and Matthew together, so that we may get a better picture of her.
Mary from Bethany – at the leper’s house:
John 12 NIV: Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, . . . 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor . . . 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Matthew 26:6 NIV: Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table.
Summary: Both passages tell us about the place – Bethany. But only John tells us when the event has taken place. It is “Six days before the Passover.” But it is Matthew who tells us more about the host of that dinner. He is “Simon the leper”. Keep these pieces of information at the back of your mind. They are important and we will revisit them a little later.
‘Mary’ from Galilee – at the Pharisee’s house:
In Luke 7 we find another story of another woman anointing Jesus (washing Jesus’s feet with perfume), but it took place in Galilee not Bethany. When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.– Luke 7:36-38 NIV. Incidentally we learn from Jesus the name of that Pharisee when He says, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” – Luke 7:40 NIV. But we are not told the name of that woman.
Some older commentaries say that the woman is Mary Magdalene. But this is not the case. The commentator Wiesler says that it is in Nain, others say it is Magdala because they assume the woman to be Mary Magdalene or Mary from Magdala. But this cannot be. You see, in the very next chapter (8), Luke introduces Mary Magdalene as a new character: “After this (the anointing at Bethany), Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God . . . 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out . . . These women were helping to support them out of their own means. – Luke 8:1-3 NIV.
Summary: What is clearly common in the two stories is that, in each case a woman has anointed Jesus with perfume from an alabaster box. But only one of the women is named Mary. The two women are clearly different persons.
But curiously, as it happened, both hosts of that somewhat similar event; concerning the anointing of Jesus were called by the same name, Simon. Let’s try to get to know the Simons a little better.
Bethany – Simon the leper:
In those days, the name Simon was quite common in Palestine. Simon was the Greek form of Simeon. You would find at least nine Simons in the New Testament – Simon Peter possibly is the best known among them. Apparently Jesus must have healed Simon the leper.
Simon the Leper therefore knew how great a blessing it was to be a beneficiary of Jesus’ work of miracles. Simon was naturally very excited when Jesus raised Lazarus from death to life. So, Simon the leper threw a dinner with Jesus as the guest of honor to celebrate the event.
Galilee – Simon the Pharisee:
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. – Luke 7: 36 NIV. I don’t know about you. But I am quite impressed by the host, Simon the Pharisee. Instead of sitting cross-legged around the table for dinner, as has been the custom of the Jews, Simon’s guests recline on a divan as the Persians, Greeks and Romans do. So, Simon the Pharisee seems quite well to do! I think he wants to know more about Jesus, the man with extraordinary deeds of miracles.
The two anointings
Throughout the New Testament we read about what Jesus has done for the Jews, the gentiles – – for all of us. But the two anointings are about what the two women have done for Jesus. You see, when the women use their hair to wipe Jesus’ feet, they are really putting their glory at His feet. What seems powerful about the women anointing the feet of Jesus is this image, this picture. This is a great picture of worship – worship without words, silent worship!
We too can serve and be of service to Jesus. You see the anointing of the two women are acts of worship. The perfumes are precious to the women personally. If you have ever struggled about making a love gift to Jesus through your church, remind yourselves how these two women put their treasured best – their perfumes and themselves at the feet of Jesus. Make no mistake. The whole room must have been filled with the fragrance of that perfumed worship. The fragrance (that act of worship) will stick onto the clothes of those present (the guests) and that fragrance will surely follow each of them when they get to their homes. Real worship has a ripple effect. I believe its fragrance will begin to latch on to all those around us.