The Preparation For The Anointed King – Mark 14:1-11
Proposition: Jesus poured out his life for us so that we can have the privilege of worshipping him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength
- The plan of the Chief Priests and Judas (v.1-2/10-11)
- The priority of Mary (v. 3-9)
This afternoon we are going to be looking at Mark 14:1-11. For the next few Sundays we are going to focus our hearts in preparation of celebrating Easter, and the resurrection of Jesus. We start with Mark 14 as this begins the passion narrative of the journey of Jesus to the cross, culminating with the resurrection. So far we have gone through 3 chapters of Mark and as you have already seen, Mark is very fast paced, and once again in Chapter 14 as the passion narrative begins, Mark does not slow down. As we look at this passage we are going to focus on two groups of characters and the contrast that Mark gives regarding these two groups. The first group is the woman and Simon the Leper and the second group is the Chief priests and Judas. We are only going to focus on the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus from the first group and Judas and the Chief Priests. As we look at the two groups of characters, I want us to look at their motives. The contrast that Mark presents can be observed as the “insiders” and the “outsiders” to God’s kingdom. We will see how the woman who is considered an “outsider” displays a love and devotion to Christ by her act of worship. We will also see how Judas and even the Chief Priests who would be considered as “insiders” reject the kingdom of God but instead seek the death of Jesus. The way Mark presents this narrative, it’s like a sandwich. You have the hatred of the priests, the love and worship of the woman and then the hateful treachery of Judas. So for our study we’re going to combine the chief priests and Judas and look at them first and then we will look at the woman. (bread first then the meat) As we study these two contrasts, the question I want to ask you is “are you living a life that brings glory to God by how you worship him?” As you consider this questions, keep this in mind, Jesus poured out his life for us, so that we can have the privilege of worshipping him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. My hope for you is that as we look at this passage, we would love him and worship him out of our hearts of gratitude and adoration for what Jesus Christ has done for us.
I have broken this passage into two points. The first is:
1. The plan of the chief priests and Judas (v.1-2/10-11)
2. The priority of the woman (v.3-9)
Mark shows that those who were considered by society as insiders to God’s Kingdom, the chief priests and Judas, are portrayed as rejecting the kingdom of God and seeking Jesus’ death. They are learned men who were privy to unique teachings and knowledge, who not only refuse to enter the kingdom of God but also seek to hinder others from entering it. On the other hand, those often thought as outsiders, an untouchable leper, the (according to that culture, inferior) woman, reveal by their actions that they are now insiders and have entered the kingdom of God and posses eternal life. So we come to Chief priests and Judas who were considered insiders, yet their plan was to get rid of Jesus. Look at:
It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
The Chief priests were trying to get rid of Jesus pretty much from Chapter 2 of Mark and onwards. This was nothing new but now their effort started to become more focused and concentrated. They tried to seek any opportunity possible to get rid of him. Here were the students of the Law, the devoted, educated, learned men who studied and taught about God. They read about the Messiah who would one day come and deliver them and yet they were so hard-hearted that they could not see past their own work-based piety. They have been trying to get rid of Jesus and here it is, Passover is upon them. This does not look good for them. Passover as you know is very special for the Jewish people. Passover occurred on the fourteenth of Nisan (March/April) and this was a very big occasion. During the Passover in Jerusalem, many pilgrims traveled and came to celebrate in the city. Historians tell us that as many as 50,000 or more people would come and visit. You remember even Jesus traveled with his parents at the age of twelve to celebrate Passover. Now that it was almost Passover, it looks like the Chief Priests missed the opportunity again. They did not want to draw attention in public in getting rid of Jesus, they wanted to do it in secrecy. All of a sudden, you have twice as many people in Jerusalem. This would make it more difficult because now there would be followers of Jesus in the city visiting as well. The potential of starting a riot was too great if they tried to grab Jesus in the open. They were committed in getting rid of Jesus somehow. These leaders hated Jesus so much and Mark wants to communicate that to his readers. These leaders were losing their patience and their followers to Jesus. Bu unfortunately, the plans of the Chief priests may have to be put on hold till after Passover when things settled down.
Now, the flow of the passage is much easier when we read the last two verses in connection to the first two. Then Judas who had already decided in his heart that he was going to betray Jesus seeks out the leaders to let them know that he is going to help them. They even promise him money and now we see the motivation of Judas. He is in it for himself, he is in it for the payoff. So now the plans of the Chief priests can proceed because now they have an insider who knows the schedule of Jesus. Now they could arrest Jesus in secrecy away from the public. Even though they knew that the Passover time was not the best time, Judas’ willingness forced them to be ahead of schedule. But we know that it was not the plan of man that was coming to fruition but it was the plan of God from the beginning for the redemption of his people.
When you think about it, isn’t it interesting that here are the insiders who sat under the teachings of the Law and anticipated the Messiah, and even sat under Jesus as he taught day in and day out and yet their hearts were truly not drawn to the gospel. Especially for Judas who had such intimate fellowship with our Lord. He ate with him, ministered with him, saw the display of his power and yet his heart was as hard as a rock. He was close to Jesus everyday yet he was so far from entering the kingdom of God. In the secret chambers of the hearts of these insiders dwelt only self, pride and the world. Let this be a sobering reminder for all of us that it is such a great blessing to hear the gospel and yet it can also be a tremendous danger when we start to become apathetic towards it. What a sad testimony of these Chief priests and Judas.
While they sought for opportunities, Mark does a flashback and tells us of an incident that took place when Jesus first arrived in Bethany a week before the Passover. It begins with an act of worship for Jesus preparation to go to the cross. We are introduced to a woman and her priority in anointing Jesus. Look with me to Mark 14:3-9:
3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the 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. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 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.8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 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.”
Mark here presents us with the contrast of the “outsiders.” This contrast is not so much a chronological contrast as it is a theological one. Against the backdrop of hate and treachery, here is the contrast of the love and worship of this woman. The woman as well as the Simon the leper represent the outsiders right? As we heard a few Sundays ago, lepers were cast out of the society. Women were not recognized on the same level as men. These outsiders are now part of the Kingdom of God because of Jesus, and the good news that he brought to them. Let us look at this event a little more closely to see the beautiful display of worship by this woman for our Lord. The gospel of Matthew and John gives us some more details to fill in some gaps to better help us understand. This account of Jesus anointing parallels in Matthew 26:6-13 and John 12:1-8. Just so no one is confused, there is also an account in Luke 7 of Jesus anointing but this is a different account with a different woman. John really helps us understand this account better by first telling us that this account occurred 6 days before the Passover. Mark tells us in verse 1 that it was two days before Passover when he begins to write about the Chief priests. But John tells us the incident with the woman happened 6 days ago when Jesus first came into Bethany. So it was most likely the Saturday before when Jesus first came into Bethany. Passover was usually celebrated on Friday so 6 days before is Saturday. (does that make sense) John also sheds a light on who this woman is, it is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Jesus was a guest at the house of Simon the Leper, most likely healed by Jesus of his leprosy and now he is eating supper along with the disciples and Simon’s family.
While Jesus is reclining, Mary enters the room with this sealed alabaster jar and does something unthinkable, she pours out the entire jar to anoint Jesus. This alabaster jar was a vessel with a long neck and seal which was broken off when the contents were used. This bottle contained pure nard, which was very costly. This nard is made from the root of a plant which is found in India. The language suggests that Mary not just broke the seal but she broke the jar in such a way that she planned to use all the perfume that was inside the jar. This meant that she was not planning on saving any of it, it was used in totality. We know this was expensive perfume because we have an amount of how much this may have cost. It cost more than 300 denarii. It has been calculated that 300 denarii was about a year’s wage for the average person. Usually you earned one denari a day so 300 is about a year counting Sabbath day off. Now let’s stop and think about that for a moment. If we compared this calculation to today, an average medial income in the U.S. per person today is about $50,000. Can you imagine spending that much on perfume?
Ok confession time! My wife tells me that i have expensive hobbies such as golf and I like certain expensive things, one of them being colognes. My brother and I try to get samples from upscale malls every time we go, it’s like a game for us to see who can get the most samples and the most expensive samples. Needless to say, i have samples of colognes that costs an average of $500 per bottle. I could never afford a bottle but hey a sample is the next best thing. So here is Mary who just spent about today’s equivalent of $50,000 for this alabaster jar of pure nard. This perfume would have lasted a very long time for her because they would only use a very little drop at a time. But she doesn’t use a drop, she pours out the entire bottle and the aroma must have filled the whole house.
What happens next? Immediately there were some upset people. They were indignant and began to scold her. They lashed out at her with a loud and noisy disapproval by word and gesture. Mark in his haste does not give much detail, but John tells us that it was specifically Judas who was leading this group of people. Judas was the treasurer among the disciples and John tells us that he also was a thief. I picture the cartoon where the dollar signs are floating away. Judas saw the money signs floating away in his head. Judas was not concerned for the poor, he was more concerned about not being able to fill his empty pockets with this money. He tries to play the caring and charitable card by saying that this money could be given to the poor. He tries to mask his motive by wanting to give money o the poor. The reason he says this is that it was customary that during Passover, giving to the poor was a common practice as a gifting for the less fortunate.
Immediately, Jesus comes to the defense of Mary. He tells them that what she did is good. He reminds them that they will always have the poor, but the time for Jesus was ending and he would not be with them for too long. Jesus knew that what Mary did was an act of worship, the overflowing love and devotion for the Lord. One pastor says this:
Adoring worship of Christ is the ultimate priority. Giving to the poor has a place. The ultimate priority is to worship Christ. Care for the poor is important, worship of the Lord is more important. Charity is good. Charity is necessary. Worship is always better. And true worship will lead to charity.
Jesus is letting them know that their priorities must be in order. While He was with them, their priority was to worship him. By telling them this, Jesus also once again confirms that he is equal with God the Father. The bridegroom is still with them, he has not left yet. He will be leaving soon but while he is still there, the priority and focus should be on him. The time of fasting and mourning is coming soon, but not yet. What Mary does serves another purpose according to Jesus. Jesus says something very shocking, look at verse 8, Mary’s act of worship also served as an anointing of his body in preparation of burial. It was a Jewish custom that the body before burial be anointed with perfume and spices. This helped with the rotting stench of the body once buried. The people in the house would know this and Jesus points out to them that she had unconsciously rendered to him while still living, the honors of burial. An what she did will always be remembered. So, think about it, even today as we begin to see the road to the cross, we stop and remember what Mary did for Jesus in preparation for that journey.
Let me ask you, what do we observe from the act of worship by Mary? I mean, why did Mary do what she did? Do you think that she knew what she was doing? What motivated Mary to worship Jesus as she did? Mary worshipped Jesus Christ because she loved him. It’s that simple. Why did she love him? She loved him because she believed in who he said he was and what he could do for her life. The love of God transformed her and now she was no longer an outsider but she was adopted into Jesus’ family. Scriptures tell us not too long before this incident, she had experienced Jesus bringing her brother back to life from the dead. She also listened and sat at the feet of Jesus. Jesus said to them in John 11, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even if he dies and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die – she believed the good news of Jesus and she saw the power of Jesus which transformed her from the inside out. One author writes this:
God’s love first transforms our hearts, then it changes our behaviors. He does transform our outer, more noticeable behavior (where we usually focus), but this transformation has its genesis in the renovation of the hidden inner person.
You can see that the overflow or the outpouring of Mary’s worship is the result of a new heart, a renovated heart, a heart of flesh and not of stone. When we are motivated by this type of sacrificial, agape love, we can’t help but worship our Lord. We do not worship out of fear or guilt but out of love and adoration. The Bible tells us it was only because of the outpouring of His life that we can be an insider to God’s kingdom. We were once outsiders just like Mary and Simon. When we see how He poured out his life in totality as Mary poured out that perfume in totality, we cannot help but worship him. Let me add this footnote to clarify Mary’s motivation. Please do not leave this service thinking that I have to do what Mary did. Mary does not anoint Jesus so that she can gain more merit or favor, her motivation is not how can I work my way into the kingdom. She is not loved any less by Jesus if she did not anoint him. Her motivation to worship was out of a thankful adoring heart. Let me give you an illustration to help you understand the difference:
My children I think teach me more than I teach them. My son Zion has a very sweet disposition and he is very aware of what’s going on around him. A little while back, Jenny said to me, “I have a head ache.” Zion heard this in the passing, at some point during the day, he came to mommy and started rubbing her head. Jenny asked him why he was doing this and he told her that he wanted to make her feel better and because he loved her. Jenny did not ask him to do it, he did this out of his own desire. Zion knows that he will not be loved any less or that if he doesn’t serve her then he will not get dinner that night. He loves mommy and he sees all that she does for him and it is out of his love for his mommy that he wanted to serve her. This was true of Mary because she loved her Savior.
Our Lord poured out his life for us in totality. He became the perfume, the sweet aroma to the nostrils of God the Father to satisfy his justice and wrath. This was the only way, there was no other way. This is also our hope, this is also our motivation, that we are now insiders and accepted by the Father by the work of our Lord. How can we not pour out in worship and adoration the love that we have when we consider this. My friends I ask you to examine your life and ask yourself, is there anything that you are holding back when you worship the Lord? What keeps you from worshipping the Lord as he deserves to be worshipped? As we enter into this passion narrative and look ahead to resurrection Sunday, let us not become apathetic in our worship and love for our Lord. May the gospel displayed in the work of our Lord lead you to worship him as he deserves to be worshipped, with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.