Summary: Mark contrasts the full commitment of Mary with Judas who moves his commitment to Jesus aside in favor of something else. We all know how that turned out.
A man was shopping for a valentines day gift for his wife and as he passed the cosmetics counter it occurred to him that perfume would be the perfect gift. So he asked the sales representative to show him some of the most popular brands of perfume. The first bottle she brought out was $150. “That’s a bit much, do you have anything a little less expensive?” So she brought out another brand $130. “That is still quite a bit, do you have anything cheaper?” So the sales representative brought out an armful of bottles, ranging in price from $80 down to $18. She placed them in front of the husband who picked up the $18 bottle and pushing it aside said, “What I mean is, I’d like to see something really cheap.”
The sales representative handed him a mirror.
So, have you ever given a gift to someone that turned out to be…well, not so well received? When we first got married I gave Katie an espresso machine. It was really a great little machine, very advanced for its time, in fact one of the newest and best models there were. Katie hated it, “This gift isn’t for me, you wanted this thing, and bought it for me so you could use it.” I hate to admit it, but to a large degree, she was right. I worked in a kitchen store at the time and these little machines were selling like hot cakes. I saw it every day and just couldn’t get it out of my mind – so Katie ended up with it. Twenty years later that little espresso machine still makes great coffee, and twenty years later, Katie still hates it.
Here in our Scripture today we have an unnamed woman (who the Apostle John tells us is Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus), and this woman gives a gift of tremendous value to Jesus – so tremendous it was scandalous, it causes people to go crazy. On the other hand, Jesus loved it. Her gift offended people. Her gift totally impressed God. Think that is way cool. It took great courage for her to give what she did, to give what she could. It took a lot to brave the criticism, to give up so much of who she was, but in the end, in the end, I think it transformed her life. How can we do that? How can we let go, so it pleases Jesus?
I think of Mary in these terms: A kidney donor. Giving a kidney is quite an extravagant gift is it not? I mean, you only have two, and giving one away can certainly put you at risk. It would be quite a decision to give a kidney away….and here in this passage Mary give a gift of such tremendous value, it is very difficult for us in this day and age to comprehend.
Before we jump into our Scripture, let me note that though in the past you may have heard sermons relating Mary’s gift to how we are to give money, let me assure you, that though this passage is very relevant to the issue of giving money, it has a much deeper significance for our discipleship than the small issue of money. Pay careful attention to this story, for it is about worship, it is about freedom, it is about receiving the blessings of God that you have been desiring for your life. This is a powerful message for you from the Word of God.
We pick back up in our study through the Gospel of Mark here at chapter 14 verse 1 and 2. Jesus has arrived in the vicinity of Jerusalem and has caused the chief priests and teachers of the law a lot of grief. He has been praised as the messiah; He has disrupted selling in the Temple; He has said that the leaders of the people are using their position to enrich themselves; He has brilliantly bested them even their most well thought out arguments and publicly mocked them for the inept way they interpret the Scriptures. These men want revenge, and believe me, they have the power to extract revenge, but they want to take revenge with the least amount of complications possible. See, Jesus was popular with the people, so they had to somehow set Jesus up in a way that was quiet as possible, and as far out of the public eye as possible.
The city of Jerusalem would swell with an additional 50,000 to 250,000 people during the week before the celebration of Passover. Demonstrations and even riots could always be expected with this increased amount of people because Passover celebrated the Lord God freeing the nation of Israel from the hand of Egypt and here they were under the hand of a foreign government again. This was a week where nationalistic passions would be fanned and the situation could get out of control. The Romans, who worked closely with the chief priests and teachers of the law, expected their help in keeping the population subdued. If things got too wild, Rome would notice, and if Rome noticed the response would not be a good thing for either the local Romans nor the chief priests and the teachers of the law. These Jewish leaders feel that the followers of Jesus might be easily excitable, so they decide not to take him until after the Passover season. People usually stayed about seven days, and then they would start to leave. If they wait until the end of the celebration there will be less of a chance of a difficult situation arising. With less people, and the nationalistic fever dying down some, they felt they could act.