Spikenard, or nard, was an expensive spice used to make perfume. It was obtained from an Indian plant, found in the Himalaya mountains, the Nardostachys jatamansi. Spikenard is mentioned twice in the New Testament involving the anointing of Jesus Christ by a woman. While they appear, at first glance, to be the same incident (both in Bethany just before Christ's crucifixion), there are differences in them (e.g. Mark has it two days before Passover, after the Triumphal Entry; John has it six days before Passover, before the Triumphal Entry) that indicate that it occurred twice, perhaps the second woman doing it after hearing of the first one, or the first woman, Mary the sister of Lazarus, doing it twice.
In John's account the woman is identified as Mary, the sister of Lazarus.
"Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment."
"Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray Him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein."
"Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of My burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but Me ye have not always."
"Much people of the Jews therefore knew that He was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death" (John 12:1-10 KJV)
In Mark's account the woman is unnamed, and she anointed Christ's head with the spikenard, rather than His feet as in the above account by John. In this incident more than one person complained that it was a "waste of money," while in John's only Judas Iscariot is said to have complained. The accounts also indicate that John's occurred at the house of Martha and Mary, while Mark's occurred at the house of Simon the leper. Overall, the differences strongly indicate not Biblical contradictions, but two somewhat similar, but different, anointings.
"After two days was the Feast of the Passover, and of Unleavened Bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not on the Feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people."
"And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on His head."
"And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her."
"And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but Me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." (Mark 14:1-9 KJV)
Fact Finder: Is Jesus Christ going to make another "Triumphal Entry" into Jerusalem?
See Two Very Different Triumphal Entries