Summary: In this study we see the worst of humanity in the betrayal of Jesus - and the best in the selfless gift of Mary. Learn also how Jesus is the Passover Lamb.
Today in the first 25 verses of Mark 14 we see some of the worst of humanity: plotting murder, subterfuge, lying, greed, and betrayal. But we also see the relationship between God and man redefined in a way that is beautiful and moving - and symbolism become reality as Jesus decrees a new relationship - a new agreement or covenant that wipes away sin and welcomes man into fellowship with God once again.
1 Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. 2 "But not during the Feast," they said, "or the people may riot."
The Passover feast commemorated the last great plague on Egypt when the children of Israel were enslaved. The last plague saw every first born son killed - unless they had the blood of a perfect lamb painted on the doorway to the house.
The Angel of the Lord "passed over" those houses. The significance of course is that Jesus came as THE Passover Lamb to die in order that God’s judgment against sin and the resulting death would "pass over" those of us who appropriated the blood of the Lamb in our lives - on our "doorposts" so to speak.
It’s so ironic then that the Jewish religious leaders would be looking for a way to kill Jesus at Passover - their act of rebellion and evil actually fulfilled God’s incredible plan for the saving of the world.
Not that that excuses these men - they attempted to find a "sly" way to arrest Jesus. They wanted to kill Him because He was a threat to their power - but they didn’t want anyone to know about it. So they didn’t want to do it during Passover - but it ultimately wasn’t up to them. God had bigger plans, and merely used these pawns to bring it about. When presented with the opportunity, the religious leaders would kill Jesus at Passover.
3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Exactly when this event took place we don’t know - Matthew and Mark put it before the last supper - John puts it actually before the triumphal entry (its most likely place). But the order of events isn’t as important as the accuracy of them - and gospel writers were not laying down a chronology but telling the account.
This man, who had Jesus over for dinner, had had leprosy at one time, but was now clean. Perhaps even Jesus healed him. Notice that the name stuck - and that Jesus is not ashamed to be with the man, nor is He ashamed to be with us, though we were once diseased with sin before coming to Jesus for healing.
The woman mentioned here is identified in John 12 as likely to be Mary, of Mary and Martha fame - brother of Lazarus. This dinner was after Jesus’ rose Lazarus from the dead.
Mary comes with this jar of perfume - John tells us that it was nard. Nard was imported from the mountains of India and this one jar was worth an entire year’s wages (as it says in verse 5).
We don’t know exactly why Mary anointed Jesus - anointing with oil at feasts was common - but not with expensive nard. She could have been anointing Him as king - later Jesus will tell her exactly what she was doing.
You know - sometimes we don’t know exactly why we do things for the Lord - but if done in sincere devotion to Him and obedience, the Lord will use our acts in His plan.
Now - we do know what the others there were thinking:
4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.
The verbs used here evoke the sound of snorting - like that of a horse. There may have been more than one person who was upset - but we know that it was Judas who said the words - John tells us that. It’s a pious covering for an evil intention. Judas, we find out, wanted the money so he could steal it, not so that it could be given to the poor.
6 "Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."