************ Sermon on Mark 14:1-11 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 14, 2010
"She Has Done a Beautiful Thing"
What is your favorite sandwich? I am sure children will say peanut butter and jam. When my dear wife was a child – a mixed up child, mind you – her favorite sandwich was composed of peanut butter, jam, and baloney all together; she made me try it – it tastes as awful as it sounds! What is your favorite sandwich? Adults might answer with pastrami on rye, Reuben, clubhouse, tuna, egg salad, the Jared series by Subway, or my favorite – Quiznos Honey Mustard Chicken. Are you getting hungry yet?
I mention this because the Gospel of Mark serves us a sandwich this evening – a theological sandwich. Notice how our passage starts? With the hatred of the chief priests and teachers of the law. This is the bottom of the sandwich. Notice how our passage ends? With the agreement of Judas to betray Jesus to the same chief priests. This is the top of the sandwich. Between these two is the heart of the sandwich – the anointing of Jesus by a woman in Bethany.
I The Hostility of Christ's Enemies
A I want to begin with the top and bottom of our sandwich.
In verse 1, Mark tells us the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away (Mk 14:1). The one-day Passover Feast, of course, remembers how the Angel of the Lord passed over every home in Egypt that had the blood of the Passover lamb on its doorposts. The seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread remembers Israel's hasty exodus from Egypt. These two great Jewish festivals were often lumped together in the popular mind as the "Passover Feast."
Jerusalem was very crowded during the Feast, with perhaps five times its usual population. Riots were known to occur; the Jewish historian, Josephus, reported that thirty thousand people were trampled or crushed at one celebration of the Passover. Thus, extra Roman troops were garrisoned in Jerusalem during the Feast, and the Roman governor came from Caesarea to be on hand in case of trouble. Also, not all the Passover pilgrims could stay in Jerusalem. So, some spent the night at villages near Jerusalem – like we see Jesus and His disciples doing at Bethany, for instance.
We know that the Jewish religious leaders had already decided that Jesus must be put to death. Mark tells us they "began looking for a way to kill him" after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Mk 11:18). After Jesus said the Parable of the Tenants "they looked for a way to arrest him" (Mk 12:12). Or, as our passage puts it, they "were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him" (Mk 14:1).
How the chief priests hated Jesus. It was not enough to throw Jesus into prison. It was not enough to banish Him out of sight to some outlying area. It was not enough to find some way to silence the Lord. No, they wanted Jesus dead.
What was stopping them? The crowds. The same crowds that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The same crowds that caused the Romans to move in extra soldiers. The Jewish leaders feared the crowds. So they said, "not during the Feast ... or the people may riot" (Mk 14:2).
B It was Judas who upset the timetable of the Jewish religious leaders. It was still two days before the Feast and Judas offered "to betray Jesus to them" (Mk 14:10). The actual Greek word means "to deliver a person into the control of someone else." The police do this when a guilty criminal is delivered into the hands of prison authorities. However, there are also those who deliver up a person so they can take advantage of a situation; think of Delilah who delivered Samson into the hands of the Philistines; think of Rahab who refused to deliver the Israelite spies into the hands of the king of Jericho. This is what Judas did. He wrongfully offered to deliver Jesus into the hands of the chief priests.
But, didn't Jesus say this was going to happen? Remember the three verses I held before you last week: Mark 8:31, Mark 9:31, Mark 10:33? Two of the verses specify that the "Son of Man" – Jesus – is going to be "betrayed into the hands of men" (Mk 9:31, Mk 10:33). Jesus was going to be handed over into the control of the chief priests and teachers of the law.
A little further on in Mark 14, Jesus declares that He will be betrayed – handed over – by "one who dips bread into the bowl with me" (Mk 14:18, 20). This makes me think of King David. When Absalom rebelled against David, it was Ahithophel – David's trusted counselor and friend – who joined Absalom and advised Absalom on strategy (2 Sam 15:12). Ahithophel attempted to deliver David into the hands of Absalom. Remember what King David said about this?
(Ps 41:9) Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.Many years later, Judas does the same thing to Jesus that Ahithophel did to David.
Why did Judas do this? Our text gives us a clue. What did the priests promise to give Judas? They promised him money. Why money? Because that is what Judas wanted. Judas didn't want fame. Judas didn't want to gain the favor of the chief priests. Judas was not interested in power or position. Judas was interested in only one thing: money. Judas betrayed Jesus because of his love for money. Because of his greed for money. Because of the avarice in his heart. The Devil – who had entered into Judas – knew this so guided Judas into making an agreement with the chief priests in exchange for money.
Beware, congregation, beware of the love for money. What does Paul write to Timothy:
(1 Tim 6:9) People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.This certainly fits Judas, doesn't it?!
C Did you see the reaction of the chief priests? They "were delighted to hear this" – that is, Judas' offer to betray Jesus. Delighted. Rejoicing. Happy. Not sad. Not upset that their timetable was thrown off. Remember, they said did not want to arrest Jesus and kill Him until after the Feast. But, they hated Jesus so much, they were filled with so much anger, that they jumped at the opportunity Judas gave them.
See what the Devil does? He uses evil to brings people together. A phrase I hear a lot today is "unity in diversity"; it is one of those politically correct phrases. Scripture shows us that there is also unity in wickedness. Peter spoke about this in his Pentecost Day sermon:
(Acts 4:27) Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.Before Good Friday, what did Pontius Pilate and Herod have in common? Nothing. In fact, they were enemies (Lk 23:12). But what happened after Good Friday? They became friends (Lk 23:12). The Devil uses evil and wickedness to unite people. I cannot begin to think of the number of times I have seen this.
II The Kindness of Christ's Friends
A So, Mark begins and ends with the hatred and hostility of the chief priests. In the middle of this sandwich of hostility is the kindness and love of Christ's friends. Actually, when we look at the middle of this sandwich, we see two friends. Usually, we miss the first friend.
Mark mentions Jesus was in the home of "Simon the Leper" (Mk 14:3). Obviously, Simon was no longer a leper – because leprosy is highly contagious and no one would have joined him for dinner. We can only guess that Simon one time had leprosy; maybe he is the man mentioned in Mark 1 whom Jesus healed (Mk 1:40f).
Whoever Simon is, he was so kind as to invite Jesus and His disciples into his home in Bethany – remember, Jerusalem was too crowded to handle all of the Passover crowds. So, Simon made room for the Lord and His disciples.
B While Jesus was reclining at Simon's table, a woman came into the dining room. Mark does not tell us her name, but John tells us that it was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Jn 11:1-2). Mary's presence makes sense when you consider that she and Simon lived in the same village.
Mary came into Simon's home with an alabaster jar of perfume. The jar would be sealed to preserve the fragrance. Once the jar was opened, however, its contents had to be used immediately. It was also a very expensive perfume; we are told it was worth more than the yearly wage of a working man; in today's money, it was worth more than $30,000. Mary poured this expensive perfume on Jesus' head. All of it. On Jesus and Jesus alone.
I want you to notice something here. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus the giver; and, we see the people as takers or receivers. Jesus was always giving of Himself. He gave of His time, His power, His love. He healed the sick, raised the dead, cured lepers, gave sight to the blind, fed the hungry, blessed the children. He gave and gave and gave and gave. Even His own family worried about burn-out (Mk 3:20-21). But in our passage we see one of the few times where Jesus is NOT a giver but a receiver, a gracious receiver. Which makes me ask: "What does Jesus get from you? Do you, like Mary, give Him your best?"
There were three consequences to Mary's extravagant act. First, the house was filled with fragrance (cf Jn 12:3). Anyone who was anywhere close could smell the fragrance. And recognize that it was expensive. There is always a "spiritual fragrance" in a home where Jesus Christ is loved and adored (cf 2 Cor 2:15-16).
Second, some of those present criticized Mary for wasting the perfume. Instead of pouring it on Jesus, they said, it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. We know from the other Gospels that Judas took the lead in this criticism. It sounded so pious and loving and caring for Judas to talk about the poor, when in reality he wanted the money for himself (Jn 12:4-6). Judas used the word "waste" (Mk 14:4). "Why this waste of perfume?" It is interesting to note that the Gospel of John applies the same Greek word to Judas (Jn 17:12). Judas criticized Mary for "wasting" the perfume and the money, but he "wasted" his entire life!
Third, Jesus commended Mary and accepted her gracious gift. And, He rejected the complaint of Judas and the others.
(Mk 14:6) "Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me."Did you hear that? A "beautiful thing" – something gracious and wonderful and kind. Jesus, of course, can look into the heart. What did He see? He saw that the heart of Judas was filled with greed, deceit, and dishonest gain. He saw that the heart of Mary was filled with love and devotion.
Mary shows us something here. No matter what others may say about our worship and service, the most important thing is that we please the Lord. Others may misunderstand us or criticize us, but that should never keep us from showing our love to Christ. Our concern should be His approval alone. Like Mary, our concern should be to give Jesus our best.
But what about the poor? Shouldn't we be looking after them? That's what Judas and the others said. Notice Christ's reply:
(Mk 14:7) The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.The contrast is NOT between Jesus and the poor. The contrast is between "always" and "not always." Opportunities to help the poor will always be present and Jesus' followers should take advantage of them. Opportunities to bless Jesus, on the other hand, will not always be available. So, Mary took advantage of the little time that was left.
When Mary gave her best to Jesus, she started a "wave of blessing" that has been going on ever since. That's what Jesus said. Mary was a blessing to Jesus as she shared her love. She was a blessing to Simon's home as the fragrance spread. And, she is a blessing to us today as we hear about her loving act of worship in three of the Gospels. As Jesus put it in verse 9,
(Mk 14:9) "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."
III The Plan of God
A So far, we've looked at the bottom of the sandwich – the hatred of the Jews. We've looked at the top of the sandwich – Judas' agreement to betray Jesus into the hands of the Jews. We've looked at the middle of the sandwich – Jesus' anointing by Mary. We've seen that Mary gave her best in faith and love; Judas, and the chief priests, gave their worst in unbelief and hatred. Now, I want to look at the hands holding the sandwich.
Let there be no doubt about it, my brothers and sisters. Underlying this passage is the hands and plan of God. He is in control. His will is being carried out. He is directing what happens.
Let's go back to the very beginning of our passage, to the hatred of the Jewish leaders. Remember what they said about their desire to kill Jesus? "But not during the Feast ... or the people may riot" (Mk 14:2). But then along comes Judas and changes their timetable. He offered Jesus to them on a platter. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Jesus was arrested before the Feast and crucified at the beginning of the Feast.
Why is this so important? Remember what John the Baptist said about Jesus? "Look," he said, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29). Jesus is the "Lamb of God." He is the Paschal Lamb. He is the Passover Lamb. He is the sacrifice for sin. Therefore, Jesus needed to bleed and die upon the cross at the exact same time as the lambs were killed for the Passover Feast. The Pharisees wanted to wait until after the Feast to kill Jesus. Satan prompted Judas so the process was sped up. Do you see the intriguing combination of divine sovereignty, human responsibility, and devilish meddling?
Let me mention, again, the text we looked at last week. Remember what Jesus taught His disciples?
(Mk 8:31) He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.Hear that word "must"? The Son of Man "must" suffer many things. He "must" be rejected. He "must" be killed. And, He "must" rise again. I said, last week, that this is a "divine must." It is part of the plan. God's plan. God's plan before the foundation of the earth. God's plan from eternity. So what happened? As Jesus put it a little bit further on in Mark 14, "The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him" (Mk 14:21).
I said last week that you cannot really look at Mark 8:31, Mark 9:31, Mark 10:33 without also looking at Isaiah 53. There we see God's plan for the Suffering Son of Man. Turn there with me:
(Is 53:3-7) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (4) Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (6) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.Do you hear the pain and suffering, the sacrifice for sin, the comparison to the slaughtered lamb? This is God's plan, my brothers and sisters. This is why Jesus had to die on Good Friday, at the beginning of the Feast. It was God's timetable that was followed. God's! Not the timetable of the Pharisees. Not the timetable of Herod or Pilate. Not the timetable of Judas. But the timetable of God. He was the One holding the sandwich.
B Not only is God holding the sandwich, but so is Jesus. Our passage and its context is loaded with references to the foreknowledge of our Lord. He knew He was going to be betrayed and who would do the betraying. He knew He was going to suffer. He knew He was going to die. He knew all of this. And, He went ahead with God's plan. So, His betrayal was not an accident; it was something He submitted to. His sacrifice was not involuntary; it was a decision on His part. His life was not taken from Him; rather, it was given. He, with the Father, was in charge. He, with the Father, was holding the sandwich.
I've been using the word sandwich. The proper literary word is "inclusio." This is a technique used by Bible writers to emphasize their point. So, we see that Mark sandwiches the anointing of Jesus with the hatred of the chief priests and Judas.
Where is our emphasis supposed to fall? What is our attention being drawn towards? Not the leaders of the Jews. Not their hatred. Not Judas. Not his betrayal. Rather, we are to look to Mary and her act of kindness, love, and devotion. And, we are especially to look to Christ – anointed as the King about to suffer and die.
So, let's end with Christ. Notice what Jesus says about preparing His body for burial:
(Mk 14:8) She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.Do you know what Mary did? She anointed Christ.
Who received anointing among God's people? Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed before they took up the duties of their office. What happened to Jesus just a few days before this? He entered into Jerusalem (Mk 11) and was welcomed as a conquering king. So, Mary did what no one else has done – she anointed the King. She anointed the King prior to His acts of service.
Notice the service for which Jesus was anointed: his death and burial. His work as Redeemer. His work as Savior. His work as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. His work as the Son of Man Who must suffer and die according to the plan of God.
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