Summary: How do you show the Lord your love? How does he show his love for you? Nothing is more intimate and personal than God’s holy heavenly love, received and expressed in joyful worship.
Present Mark 14-16 dramatically, by memory if possible.
Today Mark begins and ends with women who come to anoint Jesus. First is Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha. Second is a group of women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome. All these women walked with and ministered to Jesus. All we have time for today is the first, but I wanted to mention the second group to give you something to follow up on after this lesson.
Let me set this up so we get the impact here: It is before the Passover. Jesus has been staying in Bethany going in and out of Jerusalem every day teaching in the temple courts and causing quite a stir. Mary’s brother, Lazarus was sick not long before this. Mary and her sister Martha sent word for Jesus to please come! The one you love is sick! But Jesus delayed. And Lazarus died. Why didn’t Jesus come! By the time they see Jesus, Lazarus is dead and has been buried for four days. The sisters both cry to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here! Our brother would not have died!” The cry of Mary’s heart is, “Why? Why didn’t you come?” Jesus weeps with them and goes with them to the tomb. It is a powerful picture of love and sadness. But Jesus isn’t through. Standing before the tomb of a man who has been dead four days, Jesus tells them, “Take away the stone.” Martha objects. Lord, no! It’s been too long! In other words, “Not even you can help us now.” Jesus says to Martha, "Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" The stone is removed from the entrance of the tomb and Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, called for the dead man to rise. And Lazarus was alive again!
Now, there’s a dinner at Simon the Leper’s house. Jesus is the guest of honor. The disciples are there, Lazarus is there, it’s a house full. The women are serving, dinner is served and joy fills the room. Then she does it. She brings the most expensive material possession she has. It is an alabaster container of pure nard, a year’s salary in one small compartment. There is Jesus, reclining at the table, the one who raised her brother to life. The one whose words she longed to sit and listen to and get lost in for as long as possible. Mary comes to Jesus and she breaks open the alabaster and pours out fifty-two weeks of paychecks on Jesus head, says Mark, on his feet, says John, anointing his body, says Jesus. It was about a pound of the stuff! Perhaps 12 ounces! The volume of a coke can! The room was engulfed in the fragrance! The neighbors probably even smelled it and wondered what was going on. This was the scent of royalty! All eyes in the room must have fastened on this event. All attention turned to the head table and the extravagant, expensive outpouring of this woman’s love for Jesus. It was the best she had and the best she could give, and to Mary, nothing was too great a gift for her Lord. She didn’t just give him a little of it, she emptied it all, poured it out, drained it.
It was thankfulness and love’s expression to the Lord. And this amazing gift of love that must have drenched the garments of Jesus would go with Jesus for days! In fact, Jesus smelled like a king at the Passover meal when he went into Jerusalem and in the garden where he prayed and when they arrested him and tried him. When Jesus stood before Pilate and was asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus smelled like a king! And when those soldiers gambled for his garments beneath the cross on which hung the charge, “King of the Jews” his clothes still had the fragrance of royalty on them. All because of Mary’s gift of love in this anointing of Jesus.
But, not everyone agreed. Some saw Mary’s gift as a waste. They said she went too far. She acted in folly and unreasonable excess. Think of what good could have been done if that ointment had been sold! Think of the hungry who could have been fed, the naked who could have been clothed! Mary has done a disservice by her exorbitant actions here. Instead of appreciation, she deserves rebuke! And they gave her what they thought she deserved.
Jesus response was sudden and fierce. Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her! She has done a beautiful thing to me! Then Jesus says something very surprising. It almost seems out of character. “The poor you will always have with you and you can help them any time you wish, but you will not always have me.” Wait a minute, didn’t Jesus tell the rich young ruler to sell everything and give it too the poor and he would have treasure in heaven? Has he changed his mind about the poor? No, of course not! Jesus is protecting Mary’s act of love. She’s worshipping. And she’s right. She’s the only one in the room who is acting appropriately before the King of kings and Lord of lords. Her eyes have been opened by thankfulness and love. She can see better than ever before who this is eating at this table. Their eyes are closed by greediness and judgment.