Summary: Fourth in a 12 part series examining THE most important week in all of history: The Passion Week, when Jesus fulfilled Mark 10:45. Now, The Servant Suffers: He Is Adored. We see the demonstration, discouragement & defense of Mary's extravagant love.
The Passion Week of Christ: A Study from the Book of Mark
Week 4: The Servant Suffers - He Is Adored
A. We're continuing in our Passion Week series, exploring the most important week in the history of man when God's Suffering Servant "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." The past three weeks we have looked at The Servant's Arrival into Jerusalem: He Is King, He Is Judge, He Is Prophet. Over the next five weeks, we will continue to follow our Lord's footsteps during the hours of the last week of His life - In Bethany, In the Upper Room, In the Garden, Before the Council, Before Pilate. While thousands of Passover Pilgrims were preparing for the joys of the feast, Jesus was preparing for the ordeal of His trial and crucifixion. He has now set His heart to do the Father's will - to be "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
B. This AM, we find our Lord in Bethany, in the house of Simon the Leper. It was a time of extravagant love shown to our Lord and Savior, Jesus, by a woman named Mary. Max Lucado once wrote, "There is a time for risky love. There is a time for extravagant gestures. There is a time to pour out your affections on one you love. And when the time comes - seize it, don't miss it." A time had come for risky love, for extravangant gestures, for pouring out affections on the One you love. Mary wouldn't miss it for the world! Let's look at The Demonstration, The Discouragement, The Defense of her extravangant love for our blessed Jesus.
II. Scripture Reading & Prayer
A. Stand with me to honor the reading of God's Word. Read Mark 14:3-9.
B. Pray - Father, love is a word that has been cheapened in our society; help us reclaim it's true meaning and true expression from that day your Son reclined at table in Bethany and was adored by Mary.
III. The Demonstration of Extravagant Love (Read and explain 14:3)
A. The Setting: 1) John tells us this took place six days before the Passover. This would place this event on Saturday. Whoa! Why does Mark backtrack from Tuesday to Saturday? Recall John Mark is writing as Peter recounts his eyewitness testimony to him. Both are telling a story, not writing a newspaper or Wikipedia article! And so Peter remembering and Mark writing (some 25-30 years later) how the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him and about to tell us exactly how that played out, say Hey, Wait! Remember that Saturday?! Let us share with you this story of what happened a few days back in preparation for Jesus' death and burial! It was a beautiful thing to behold! 2) Matthew & Mark tell us it was in the house of Simon the leper. John tells us that it was also home to Mary, Martha and Lazarus and names the woman in the story as Mary. Simon likely had been miraculously cured of his leprosy by Jesus, and may have planned this meal for Jesus in gratitude (which itself was an expensive undertaking). Who is Simon? He may well have been the father of the house, though still alive, was a leper, and control of the household had passed, for all practical purposes, to his children (Uzziah, 2 Chr. 26:21). 3) Jesus was reclining at table. They did not use chairs, but reclined at three low tables forming a horseshoe-shape, on their left elbow with feet behind them and ate with their right hands.
B. The Setting, The Sacrifice: It was custom then to anoint the forehead of a guest that came to a person's home with a few drops of perfume. This was done as a general custom of welcome as well as to give the person who might have traveled some distance a nice smell. The fragrant smell would cover the not so fragrant smell of the person from their journey. Yet, here came Mary with an alabaster flask - Alabaster was a fine variety of marble, quarried from Alabastron, a city in Egypt, which could be carved into delicate containers for storing costly perfumes. It would have been sealed, and once opened it could not be resealed. We often point to the price of what was in the flask, but the flask itself would have been very costly. In it is pure nard, a whole pound per John (12 oz). This oil was derived from the nard plant, a rare plant that came from far-off India. It had a VERY strong fragrance. "Nard has intense, warm, fragrant, musky notes, earthy, root like similar to the aromas of humus and is an excellent fixative when used in very small portions. It will enhance as a base other fragrances giving them strength and enduring power. Use too much and all you can smell is the spikenard." Thus when she broke the jar and poured it on His head, the house was filled with fragrance of the oil as John writes. Mark alone tells us that she broke the flask. This may simply have been so she could pour out the contents more quickly. Jesus, in light of His impending death, likely saw the ancient custom to first bathe and then anoint the bodies of the dead. After the body had been anointed, the flask in which the perfume had been was broken and the fragments were laid with the dead body in the tomb. Discuss Matthew & Mark (poured on His head) vs. John (anointed feet and wiped His feet with her hair). The Bible contains errors? NO! The answer? Yes and yes. Both are true. A whole pound would have been too much for just His head, but would easily anoint His whole body.