A Beautiful Thing
February 10, 2013 Series: Gospel of Mark
Topic: Worship Passage: Mark 14:1–9
Today we begin the final section of this gospel which is the Passion of Jesus. Our text for today is Mark 14:1-9 but we’re going to read through verse 11 for a little context.
The backdrop of our passage is the Passover and the plot to kill Jesus. This isn’t the first time the Jewish religious leaders have tried to get rid of Jesus. But they’re more determined than ever to arrest and kill Him. But they’re cautious because of the Passover, Jesus popularity w/people. During Passover, the city would swell from 50,000 to 250,000.
The first Passover happened 1500 years earlier when God delivered His people out of slavery to Egypt. This is the greatest picture of salvation in OT. God delivered His people with His mighty, outstretched arm through the 10 plagues that he brought upon Egypt. The 10th was the plague of the angel of death who came to strike down every firstborn in Egypt.
But God instructed His people to kill a lamb and put its blood on the door posts. And when death came and saw the blood it “Passover” and they were saved. Passover is all about substitutionary death; death that would rescue and cover; deliver and save. This Passover feast was a celebration of that great salvation and we’ll see in the coming weeks how the first Passover was a shadow of the coming of Jesus-the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
This morning we’re going to look at a story of tender and extravagant love; an amazing example of true worship that’s given to us to emulate. And it’s interesting that it’s a story right in between the murderous intent of the religious leaders (vv. 1-2) and the betrayal of Judas, one of Jesus closest disciples.
Sandwiched between these 2 responses of rejection is another response. And Mark wants us to see it clearly so he uses the contrast of these 2 historic and dark examples of rejection to show the brightness and importance of what it really means to receive Jesus. This is how to respond!
In Marks gospel this woman is a nameless hero whose example of extravagant devotion will forever be told with the gospel. Why? She knew who Jesus was; how worthy He is and she responded in a way that only He deserves! And what we learn from her in this story is that we should hold nothing back from Jesus.
Let’s read verse 3. “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.”
This dinner was in the home of Simon the Leper which is interesting because lepers were quarantined by law. More than likely, Jesus had healed Simon but it appears that he kept the name, perhaps as a reminder of what Jesus had done for Him (I was unclean but Jesus made me clean).
Jesus and his disciples were there. We know from the gospel of John that Martha was hosting and her sister Mary is the woman in the story. We also know that Lazarus was in attendance which is strange because he was recently dead-for 4 days-but Jesus raised him from the dead. So this is no ordinary dinner. There’s plenty to talk about and I’m sure lot’s of activity.
And right in the middle of everything this woman (Mary) comes up behind Jesus at the table with an alabaster flask of ointment made of pure nard. This was a very expensive perfume, vs. 5 tells us, worth 300 denarii ($40-50K). Culturally, women had no way of earning this kind of wealth; this was probably a family heirloom passed down to her with the intention of securing a good husband or a stable financial future. So it’s to everyone’s surprise when she breaks it open and pours it on Jesus. And look at the response. The disciples weren’t filled with amazed and filled with respect for her as she showed such extravagant love and worship to the Savior? No, vs. 4-5 say some of them were indignant and they scolded her.
Jesus comes to her rescue and defends her and tells them: “Leave her alone.” Why do you trouble her?” “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” How kind of Jesus to rescue her in this way-and not only that but to put his authoritative stamp on what she did. “She has done a beautiful to me”. Jesus received her act of worship very personally. Because of who He was and what did. So the question for us is why is this a beautiful thing to Jesus? What is beautiful about it?
1. Her act of worship was passionate and unashamed.
She had a “who cares” attitude in her response to Jesus. She wasn’t supposed to interrupt the men during the meal. But “who cares”. Who cares about social protocol? Who cares about what other people think or say? There may have been temptations to fear-there’s really important people in there. But all she saw was Jesus. All that mattered in that moment was giving to Jesus what her heart had been longing to give. And she wasn’t going to be detoured.
This woman was unashamed and passionate and determined and reckless in her love and devotion to Jesus. She wasn’t fearing man or trying to look good or even trying not to look bad. She was acting out of the deep affection that she had for the Savior; she was so in love with Jesus that out of her heart came this beautiful expression of worship that only Jesus is worthy of. And Jesus loved it. He loves the heart that is passionately abandoned to Him and unashamed to express it. This is beautiful to Jesus.
There are times during worship that I find myself wondering if you are watching me. Should I raise my hands? I want to clap but it’s awkward. My heart and mind drift and get distracted away from the glory of Jesus toward wondering what you think about me. Singing is not only form of worship (Rom. 12:1). Let’s learn from this woman.
Do you have a bad voice? Who cares-sing at the top of your lungs. It’s beautiful to Jesus. Do you want to raise your hands, dance, clap, come forward and kneel. Do it-even if someone thinks you look silly-who cares. This is the kind of worship that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords deserves. Passionate and unashamed worship is beautiful to Jesus.
2. Her act of worship was costly.
She held nothing back. She broke the jar and poured everything out on Jesus. Not only did she not care what others thought, she also didn’t care about her own treasure compared to the worth of Jesus. If you would have tried to convince her not to do this because of how expensive this perfume was, she would tell you that’s exactly why she did it. And if she had anything of more value she would have used that; because of the worth of Jesus.
In light of who Jesus was to her and what Jesus meant to her, this was no brainer. There was no one else that deserved all of her treasure, security, inheritance and life and future accept Jesus.
Sinclair Ferguson quote: “She had reason to be grateful to Jesus. In a moment of quiet commitment, she had resolved that Jesus would receive her most precious possession. Quietly she had taken it from its place and brought it to Simons house, where Jesus was. And in gratitude for her past she poured her future and her security on Jesus. No wonder He described this act as beautiful.”
There’s more to cost than money. It can be costly to obey or to stand up for what’s right. We can lose our reputation, popularity, respect. Jesus requires everything and when we whole heartedly respond to Him with passionate, unashamed sacrificial worship and devotion, it’s beautiful to Him. Do you hear Jesus say-that’s a beautiful thing? When you’re singing, giving, serving, praying, encouraging others, moms-when you get your 5 min. break to pray but you doze off because of all you do. Jesus knows your heart-do you hear him say that’s a beautiful thing?
This story is an example for us of true and genuine Christianity and when we compare of life to this act of devotion we need to repent where we’re holding back. The question isn’t, “Do I have it to give?” the question is, “Is He worth it?”
3. Her act of worship was in light of the cross
Look at vv. 7-8: “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.”
She may not have known the significance of what she did but she knew Jesus wouldn’t be with them much longer. Jesus isn’t saying to ignore the poor, but that He’s most important now because soon He would die. He will hang on a cross as the ultimate Passover lamb; a substitutionary sacrifice that would save many from the slavery of sin. This is the Lamb of God being prepared for burial.
Her extravagant love and worship for Jesus looked forward to the cross and what He would do there. And all of our worship stems from and is rooted in the cross as well.
A few weeks ago I met a pastor from another local church and was able to meet with him last week. We were getting to know each other and sharing our stories with each other and when he got to point in His life when He received Jesus, he said, “I remember that moment like it was yesterday…” And he had to stop. He began to cry and was physically affected as he remembered what Jesus did for him.
Mary remembered what Jesus did for her and looked forward to His greater work on the cross. We look back to Jesus finished work on the cross. If we want to worship Jesus with the kind of extravagancy devotion we see in this woman we must remember. Remember who we were without Jesus; sinners, hopeless and lost. Remember that it was Him who sought us out in our misery; Remember that that Jesus took our sin upon Himself and bore the punishment that we deserved and then He extended to us mercy and grace and forgiveness. And in the same moment that you experienced the reality and weight of your sin He was there to lavish you with His love and acceptance. He saved you, a sinner.
We are all like the alabaster jar-broken. But because of Jesus Christ and His redeeming work on the Cross, our lives can be a beautiful, pleasing fragrance to the Lord; fully devoted to him. Remember the cross. Remember who He is and what He did for you and, broken as we may be, let your life be poured out in passionate, unashamed and costly worship to the only one who deserves all that we have to give-Jesus.
More in Gospel of Mark
March 31, 2013Shock and Awe at the Empty Tomb
March 31, 2013Shock and Awe at the Empty Tomb
March 24, 2013A Glorious View from the Mt Everest of Our Redemption