Sapphire Sky

June 6, 2015

Dare to Waste!

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 1:44 pm

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Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), causing many to believe in him. But this also provoked the anger and jealousy of the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were all united in their plans to kill him (John 11:53).

Jesus had retreated to the town of Ephraim (John 11:54) and stayed there until it was time to come for the Passover. Within a couple weeks of the Passover, He had traveled north from Ephraim through the middle of Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11), and joined the bands of Galilean pilgrims as they traveled to Jerusalem [2].

As the crowds neared Jerusalem on Friday, Jesus had split from the group and spent the Sabbath in the nearby town of Bethany. It was there in Bethany that Simon, a healed leper, had hosted a feast for Jesus and his disciples on Saturday night.

During the dinner, Mary shocked the entire crowd. She approached Jesus as he reclined at the table with the dinner guests. She then broke a priceless bottle of perfume and proceeded to pour it on his head. She moved to his feet with the perfume and unbound her hair, using her hair to wipe up the excess from his feet.

The fragrance of this strong perfume permeated the entire house.

Mary’s actions shocked the crowd as she proceeded to anoint his head and wash his feet. But the disciples were deeply scandalized when someone started to add up the cost of the perfume that was wasted on Jesus. Judas lead the disciples in scolding her, saying that this cost over a year’s wage. Why not use that to help the poor?

Jesus’ response to Judas was sharp and abrupt, “Leave her alone!” Her worship of him was more important than even helping the poor.

Mary alone understood that Jesus was coming to die and she was preparing him for his burial. Her story will now forever be joined with the story of the Gospel itself. “She has done a beautiful thing.”

This scene would burn in Judas’ memory. He was still stinging from Jesus’ rebuke three days later when he goes to the chief priests and offers to betray the Lord Jesus Christ.

The other 11 disciples should have known better. They had been following Jesus for the last three and a half years, yet they were so caught up in themselves that they missed what Jesus was trying to teach them.

Mary was the only one who understood what was going on.

This short account opens the final week of Jesus’ ministry on earth. This final week will mark the highest and lowest points of Jesus’ entire days on earth. He will teach his disciples and confront his enemies but there is one primary purpose throughout this week.

He has come to die.

 

Remember!

  • From the example of Judas, we need to beware lest we become hardened through unbelief. As it says in Hebrews 3:12-13, we need to encourage each other daily!
  • From the example of the 11 disciples, don’t be so caught up in ourselves that we miss what Jesus is saying to us!
  • Finally, from the example of Mary, would we all be so caught up with love for the Lord Jesus Christ that we are ready to lavish our most valuable possessions on him!

Previous post: Greater than Death


John 11:55 – 12:11
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.


Matthew 26:6-13
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”


Mark 14:3-9
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”


 

John: Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Jesus retreated to the town of Ephraim (John 11:54) and stayed there until it was time to come for the Passover.

We learn from Matthew, Mark, and Luke that Jesus had traveled North from Ephraim through the middle of Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11) and joined the bands of pilgrims from Galilee as they traveled to Jerusalem [2]. The people in Galilee would assemble in the Jezreel Valley and form groups to travel along the Jordan Rift. This route would take them across the Jordan River, south through Perea, back across the Jordan to Jericho, and finally to Jerusalem. The trip would have taken one to two weeks. [1]

Now that the Passover was at hand, Jesus had become the major topic of conversation. All of the leaders were looking for him, but would he come to the Passover in Jerusalem? If so, how would he get into the city as a wanted fugitive?

It was a common practice for pilgrims to arrive early in Jerusalem in order to have time to purify themselves before the Passover.

 

Matthew: Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,

Mark: And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table,

John: Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.

The band of pilgrims neared Jerusalem on Friday, six days before the Passover. As the people hurried to get into Jerusalem before the Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples split from the group and spent the Sabbath in Bethany.

Rabbinical law dictated that you could not travel outside the “Sabbath Zone” during the Sabbath (“a Sabbath day’s journey”). Bethany was outside the Sabbath zone of Jerusalem, therefore no one would be able to travel between Jerusalem and Bethany until Sunday morning. [1]

Simon (“the leper”) was another resident of Bethany who must have been indebted to Jesus. We know nothing else about Simon other than his title and that he hosted a feast for Jesus. He was likely a former leper who had also been healed by Jesus. [3]

The feast for Jesus was on Saturday night. Simon was the host, Martha helped to serve, and Lazarus was at the table with Jesus.

Note that Matthew and Mark both tell of this event as a flashback during the Tuesday narrative. Both of those accounts recount this event to show how Judas had become so hardened that he was willing to betray the Lord Jesus to the chief priests.

“The words of St. John seem to indicate that the meal was a public one, as if the people of Bethany had combined to do Him this honour, and so share the privilege of attending the feast.” – Alfred Edersheim [4]

 

Matthew: a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.

Mark: And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

John: Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

The spikenard ointment was a very rare and costly perfume which was imported from India. The value of this bottle was estimated at over a year’s wage, or over $30,000! It was common for wealthy women to carry a small bottle of a very expensive perfume like this. They may put a small drop on themselves, or simply open the lid if they wanted to freshen the room.

But the primary use of spikenard was to prepare the deceased. The strong scent would help to keep away the smell of decay until the body was buried.

Instead of only using a few drops, Mary poured the entire bottle on Jesus! Matthew and Mark tell that she first poured it on his head, and then John tells how she continued to his feet. She let down her hair and uses it to wipe up the residue from his feet.

The fragrance filled the room and permeated through the entire house. The dinner guests must have been speechless! This was Mary’s act of worship.

This had happened once before. At the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, a woman had poured perfume on his feet and wiped them with her hair (Luke 7:36-50). Now, this act of worship is repeated at the close of his ministry. [6]

It is interesting to note that neither Matthew nor Mark identify the woman who comes to anoint Jesus with the expensive ointment. Only John identifies her as Mary.

“And so she poured the precious ointment over His Head, over His Feet – then, stooping over them, wiped them with her hair, as if, not only in evidence of service and love, but in fellowship of His Death.” – Alfred Edersheim [4]

“It was the expression of her heart’s adoration, for that is what worship is. We worship as we give back to Him of that which He has given to us.” – H.A. Ironside [5]

 

Matthew: And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”

Mark: There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.

John: But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Both Matthew and Mark show that the disciples were indignant, and Mark says that they scolded her. The words for “scolded her” is not strong enough in our language. This is the same word used in John 11:33, when Jesus was “deeply moved” at the sight of Mary weeping Lazarus’ tomb. Now this same Mary has scandalized the dinner party and Jesus’ own disciples are deeply moved against her!

John gives insight that the criticism started with Judas. Although Judas pretended to make this an issue about the poor, he was really looking out for the opportunity to steal some of the money.

 

Matthew: But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.

Mark: But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.

John: Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Jesus came quickly and sharply to Mary’s defense, “Leave her alone!”

Judas had rebuked Mary, and now Jesus rebuked Judas. Matthew and Mark’s accounts put this scene on Tuesday night, when Judas offered his service to betray the Lord Jesus to the chief priests. Many commentators look to this point, when Jesus rebuked Judas in Bethany, as the time when Judas made up his mind to betray him.

There will always be occasions to help the poor, but the opportunity to show love to Jesus on earth was limited.

“We think we need to do great things to impress God. For Mary it was very simple. ‘She has done a beautiful thing.’” [7]

 

Matthew: In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Mark: She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

John: “so that she may keep it for the day of my burial”

Jesus had repeatedly told the disciples what would happen to him in Jerusalem. He would be arrested, would be killed, and would rise again on the third day (see Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-34). Yet as much as He told them that he would die, they did not understand.

Mary seems to be the only person who understood that he is going to die. She may not be able to prepare his body once the tragedy strikes, so she offers him her devotion at this time.

“He [Judas] knew the nearness of Christ’s Betrayal, and hated the more; she knew of the nearness of His precious Death, and loved the more.” – Alfred Edersheim [4]

 

John: When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

Lazarus had been raised from the dead, and Jesus’ fame and popularity were exploding! Many came to see Jesus, but many also wanted a glimpse of this man who had been dead and is now alive.

The chief priests try to contain this excitement about Jesus by issuing a warrant for Lazarus’ death. They decided to kill Lazarus as well in order that their current position would not be disturbed.

 


[1] Doug Bookman, Passion Week, Audio Series, http://www.bookmanministries.com/

[2] We can identify that Jesus traveled down the Jordan Rift based on the references along the way. Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, and Luke 18:31-34 tell how Jesus, on the way to Jerusalem, taught his disciples that he would be arrested, killed, and rise again at Jerusalem. Matthew 20:29, Mark 10:46, and Luke 18:35 tell about the experiences as Jesus passed through Jericho on the way to Jerusalem.

[3] Some traditions have held that Simon was related to Martha (either as a husband or father). However, there is no credible basis for making this assumption.

[4] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book IV, CHAPTER XXIV. IN JERICHO AND AT BETHANY – JERICHO – A GUEST WITH ZACCHAEUS – THE HEALING OF BLIND BARTIMAEUS – THE PLOT AT JERUSALEM – AT BETHANY, AND IN THE HOUSE OF SIMON THE LEPER

[5] H.A. Ironside, Address 37, THE HEART’S APPRECIATION OF CHRIST, John 12:1-11

[6] The similarities between the two accounts (a woman anointing Jesus’ feet, the name of the host, the disapproval of the other guests) have caused some commentators to believe that this is the same scene. However, there are enough differences that they must be treated as separate accounts:

  • The Simon in Luke was a Pharisee. The Simon in Matthew and Mark is a former leper.
  • The scandal in Luke is that Jesus, a rabbi, allowed such a sinful woman to touch him. The scandal in Matthew, Mark, and John was over how much money was wasted.
  • Simon, the host, criticizes Jesus in the first account. Judas and the disciples criticize Mary in the second.
  • Jesus answers with the woman’s gratitude in the first account. He tells of his burial in the second.
  • The setting of the first account is in Galilee; the setting of the second is in Bethany (in Judea).

[7] Stephen Davey, Scent from a Broken Vase, John 12:1-11

1 Comment »

  1. […] Previous post: Dare to Waste […]

    Pingback by The King has Come! | Sapphire Sky — June 22, 2015 @ 10:12 pm


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