Many Christians anoint the sick. This practice was observed in Jesus’ day too. A sinful woman anointed Jesus before His suffering and crucifixion, and was commended by the Lord. The faithful women who had shared His life and ministry anointed His body before its burial. When Jesus sent out His twelve disciples to minister and share the gospel, they also shared the practice of anointing, in this case to heal the sick.
To pour or smear perfumed oil or water on someone, anointing symbolized the presence and power of the divine. In the Old Testament, anointing identified the ones who were chosen as God’s divine agents. When Samuel anointed David as king over Israel, the sign of anointing was equivalent to a crown (see 1 Samuel 16). The high priest and various prophets were also marked as God’s anointed, setting them apart for the work they had been called to do.
The One who would reign in eternity as prophet, priest, and king was Jesus. The word Christ means "anointed one." Both the pouring of costly perfumed oil over Jesus in the home of a Pharisee and also the anointing of Jesus’ body for burial served as signs that Jesus is the One chosen as God’s holy agent of redemption.
When Jesus sent out His twelve disciples, they anointed those they encountered who were sick, and many were healed (see James 5:14).
Approved in 1563, The Heidelberg Catechism asks those being initiated into the faith, "But why art thou called a Christian?" The catechist answers, "Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus am partaker of his anointing." To identify with Christ’s anointing is to agree to be used like His early disciples, as prophetic, priestly, and royal agents in the world today.
Apply the Word
The physical act of anointing makes visible the anointing that is the privilege of all believers. It symbolizes God’s power and presence. Through His death and resurrection Jesus accomplished the once-and-for-all work of the royal, priestly, and prophetic offices. The work of the church today is to continue the work and mission He has given us to do.