Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mark 14:1-9 Jesus' Anointing at Bethany

Mark 14:1-9
1 After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.” 3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 “For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 “For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 “She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Jesus having left the Mount of Olives after giving His Olivet Discourse (that is His foretelling of the Temple's destruction; Israel's dispersion, and His return at the end of the age) is now in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper (vs. 3). The fact that Jesus frequently resided with people most Jews, and certainly no priest would speak with, much less eat and stay at their residence with, is largely lost on us. Nonetheless Jesus did not do this simply because He wanted to be radical, or shock the status quo, rather because where His presence is; there is the life giving and healing presence of God. That is why the Lord Jesus Christ wants to come into your heart and life to bring God's life giving presence within you. Contrast that with verse one and two which reveal the finial plot against Jesus by the chief priests and scribes who having been rebuked by Him in the Temple (for turning the house of God into a den of thieves) are now scheming to find a way to take Jesus by trickery and put Him to death. And this just two days before the Passover, and the following week long Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover being most sacred of all Jewish Religious holy days. That is the silent backdrop that is unbeknownst to the disciples at this time, while Jesus is with them in Simon the Leper’s residence in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem. And so Jesus waits for His betrayer, and betrayal to them to take place, as He Himself foretold it will (Mark 9:30-32). Now as Jesus is sitting at the table in Simon the leper’s house with several others. A woman (likely Mary, Martha’s sister) comes in with a flask with some very costly spikenard oil, and breaking the flask she anoints the head of Jesus with the oil (vs. 3). The reason for speculating that this unnamed woman was Mary, Martha’s sister, is that in John’s gospel Mary six days before the Passover anoints the feet of Jesus with her hair with the same type of oil (John 12:3-9). There it seems her extravagant behavior was born out of her humble gratitude for the Lord’s raising Lazarus her brother from the dead. Now as the woman is anointing Jesus' head with oil, Mark’s gospel says that there were some who were indignant among themselves about this and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 “For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. Vs. 4-5
If you remember it was this Mary who was the one who listened intently at the feet of Jesus while her sister Martha was busy serving. And thus it was this Mary who received commendation from the Lord Jesus for her attentiveness to Him and His Word (see Luke 10:39-42). And so it is here, that it is this Mary again, who must have understood from the Words’ of Christ that His crucifixion death was now imminent. So she, of her own volition, goes and brings some very expensive fragrant oil. So that she can anoint Jesus’ body for burial, as Jesus later explains her motives (vs. 8). Therefore Mary wanting to honor her Lord and prepare His body in the greatest and most significant way possible does this extravagant deed, by using a whole jar of costly spikenard oil (an exotic oil imported from India) for Jesus' anointing. Mary being of such a quiet and discerning heart that she does not follow after the crowd, she follows her Lord. Which should’ve humbled the disciples for their lack of attentiveness to what was then unfolding. Instead there were only some amongst them who were indignant about this “waste” and rebuked her sharply. Notice John’s gospel tells us it is Judas Iscariot who being the treasurer, and who used steal what was entrusted to him, was the primary offender (John 12:4-6). And so it is Judas’ evil assertion against Mary’s most noble deed that will sway them, until Jesus comes to her defense.

Now looking at Jesus Words in doing so. He was not swayed by Judas' false appeal of "ministry to the poor" which swayed the others (vs. 7). Yes there is a needed ministry to the poor that the church and individual believers must do. For that is what the Lord Jesus Christ Himself did. But when that ministry supplants the ministry of the gospel's message of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead for the redemption of the world from sin and death, then something has gone terribly amiss. The social gospel movement of the nineteenth and twentieth century’s is a clear example of that error. It started out with great intentions. But soon lost its “evangelical” voice, and within it, the gospel’s message. Nonetheless Mary was focused on the Lord’s Person. For she alone anointed the Lord Jesus Christ with the oil; meaning her heart was focused fully on the Lord. Which I believe always leads to doing all of the Lord’s business. Therefore in all things Christian the priority must always be proclaiming and obeying Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior as testified too in the Scriptures. And thus honoring Him, worshiping Him, serving Him, loving Him (all in no particular order) is where each and every believers focus must always remain. Everything else then is really just an outworking of that. For if one loves the Lord Jesus than of course one will have love and empathy for ones fellow person. For in the gospel the two are unmistakably intertwined; both in words and deeds. Therefore that is what believers are to do and strive for, greater love for the Lord, and thus ones fellow person (Mark 12:30-31). Still Mary had the right focus and because she had the right focus she went on to do what Jesus called a good work for Him. Not a “waste” as the disciples then saw it (vs. 6). Indeed she was likely the least amongst them, (at least from their perspectives). Yet she came away with the greatest commendation from the Lord that day because of her attentiveness to Him. As Jesus said of her and her deed: “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Vs. 9
For the Lord Jesus Christ always honors those who honor Him, regardless of their stature before men. For that is what God commands, that all honor His Son, he who does not honor God's Son does not honor the Father who sent Him (John 5:23). Therefore a believer who builds must build on God’s foundation, that is His Son Jesus Christ; crucified for the redemption of the world. For there is no other foundation than anyone can lay than that which has already been laid. Therefore building on Jesus Christ alone and His finished Work and Word of redemption for all who believe, will always have lasting effects and impacts for eternity (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

Now again, that there were some there who were not discerning what the Lord Jesus was soon to do for them, and for us all who believe. So they totally misunderstood the good work Mary in all humble gratitude and love did to honor the Lord Jesus Christ before His death. Indeed they were so out of tune, that some of them became swayed by the very man who was soon to betray Him! And that’s likely why Jesus rebuked them so sharply. They were to be His leaders, who were going to shepherd and guide His flock after His departure. For Jesus had handpicked, discipled, and called some of them to be His Apostles for that expressed purpose; to be His messengers and witnesses’, but also to bear up (i.e. build up) the church in faith and love. Yet here they are rebuking a humble woman for trying to honor the Lord, her Lord, while they are only thinking about honoring the poor. Who as Jesus said they would always have, but He in His physical Person and Presence, they would not always have. Now they are not alone in this, for we also as fallible believers are susceptible to becoming swayed by those who may not even know, nor honor the Lord as well.

Yet Mary loved the Lord greatly; and had come to understand; maybe from her own brother’s death, then resurrection at the hands of Jesus, that Lazarus’ death (in that Jesus brought Him to life from it) was in some way’s a foreshadow of Jesus’ own death and resurrection. For Lazarus was there with them. And as John’s gospel later declares there were many coming to that house in Bethany wanting to see him, since the news of Jesus having raised Lazarus from the dead spread far and wide (John 12:9-12). And with that the chief priests also wanted to kill Lazarus along with Jesus, since because of him, many turned away from them and believed in Jesus. Have you come to believe in Jesus Christ the Lord? For it’s not religion that God is offering to us all, it’s a personal relationship with Himself through His Son, whereby we are reconciled to Himself through the Person of His Son. Have you then come to believe and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? For it’s not what we do which saves us and brings us into a relationship with Himself. It is what He Himself has done in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. Who alone bore all our sins on the cross so that God’s justice could be satisfied for everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ crucified to save them (John 3:16). If you would like to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. Why not say a simple prayer in faith asking Him to come into your heart and life. Just pray something like like this: Dear Lord Jesus I believe you died for me on the cross to pay for all my sins, and that you rose from the dead so that you could deliver me from my sins and restore me back to God. Therefore I now invite you into my heart and life, to be my Lord and Savior, trusting only what you have done. In your Precious Name Lord Jesus, amen.

Scripture Quotations:
The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

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