Simon the leper. No doubt no longer a leper, he may have been healed by Jesus. He was clearly an important member of the wider circle of disciples since Jesus chose to visit his house at this time.
reclining. People reclined rather than sat at the table (Luke 22:14 note).
a woman. According to John 12:3, this woman was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. John also indicates that the meal occurred “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1), before Jesus had entered Jerusalem. Mark may have placed the account here to more closely associate this pre-anointing for burial (v. 8 note) with the plot to kill Jesus (v. 1), and was subsequently followed by Matthew (Matt. 26:3–13).
alabaster flask. Alabaster is a type of gypsum, in its pure form white or translucent, found in limestone deposits in caves and at the exit of springs. It was often used for making ointment jars, and was considered a luxury item.
pure nard. A rare perfume made from the root of a plant grown in the Himalayas. Its value of “three hundred denarii” (v. 5) was roughly equivalent to a year’s wages.
broke the flask. To prevent loss, amounts suitable for a single application were sealed into flasks that were then broken at the neck at the time of use. According to John 12:3, the flask contained twelve ounces of perfume.