Sunday Morning Bible Study
April 21, 1996
A few weeks ago, we started a story about Jesus and His three friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
Lazarus got sick and died.
But Jesus raised him after having been dead for four days.
The Jewish leaders, rather than admitting that Jesus was the Messiah with this great miracle, instead became more paranoid that Jesus was going to cause problems for them with the Romans.
They decided that Jesus must die.
Jesus headed north to a small village named Ephraim, to hide out until the time was right to come back to the Jerusalem area.
And now the time is right.
The Passover is about a week away.
:1-8 Mary anoints Jesus
:1 six days before the passover
It's now the Saturday before Good Friday, the day before Palm Sunday, when Jesus will enter triumphantly into Jerusalem.
:1 Jesus ... came to Bethany
Bethany was the small village about two miles to the east of Jerusalem.
It was the village of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, whom Jesus had just raised from the dead.
:2 There they made him a supper
But it doesn't appear that Jesus was actually at Martha's house on this occasion.
The other gospels tell us that this specific dinner was given at the house of "Simon the leper". (Mt 26:6 ;Mr 14:3)
It seems most likely that if the host was a leper, Jesus would have probably healed him, otherwise there wouldn't be a gathering going on.
:2 and Martha served
Here she is doing her thing!
A few weeks ago we looked at another occasion when Martha and Mary hosted a dinner for Jesus at their own house. (Luke 10:38-42)
On that occasion, Martha asked Jesus to get her sister to help her, because Mary was simply sitting at Jesus' feet, listening to His word.
Jesus said to her:
»Luke 10:41-42 ... Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Frankly, she had lost her perspective, and rather serving Jesus unselfishly and out of love, she had become so caught up in the action itself, that she began to complain because other people weren't helping her.
But now she's back doing her thing, serving Jesus.
Because you have problems in your ministry doesn't mean you give it up forever.
From time to time I come across people who start to see things go bad in their ministry.
They start to notice some bad motives, or maybe a feeling of burnout.
But rather than tossing it all into the trashcan, step back for a bit, then go at it again with the proper motives.
:2 Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him
In a way, Lazarus is one of the guests of honor.
Lots of people have been giving him unusual attention lately.
After all, how often do you meet someone who's been dead for four days!
:3 Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard
pound - litra - a pound, a weight of 12 ounces (340 gm)
ointment of spikenard - a fragrant oil prepared from the roots and stems of an aromatic herb from India. It was prepared and stored in alabastar (white, translucent gypsum like stone) boxes or flasks, then sealed with wax. It would be saved for special occasions, and then the box would be broken, and the ointment poured out.
As we're going to see, this ointment was worth a whole year's wages.
Mary is certainly sparing no expense!
But after all, this is the one who raised her brother Lazarus from the dead!
And now she is going to show her love and appreciation to Jesus.
Worship is costly
Mary didn't hold back something that was extremely valuable.
Sacrifice, or, worship, is supposed to be costly.
David was told by the prophet Gad to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah, and when he got there, Araunah offered to just give David the threshing floor and the animals for the sacrifice.
But David replied:
»2Samuel 24:24 Nay; but I will surely buy [it] of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
We could talk about how we worship God with the things we give - such as money or time.
And this is undoubtedly true.
But I would like to focus on something else.
Do you love the Lord enough that you are willing to sacrifice your pride, and even your reputation in loving and following Him?
When we take the first part of our service to worship the Lord in our singing, are you more than a little concerned of what people will think if you close your eyes, or sing loud enough to actually be heard, or even (gasp!) raise your hands during worship?
Worship is supposed to be costly.
Worship is fragrant and beautiful
When the Bible talks about the sacrifices in the Old Testament, there's a phrase that's attached to the sacrifice over and over again:
»Leviticus 1:9 ... an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
There were a lot of very nice smells going on when the sacrifices were going on, smells like steaks on the barbeque, or bread baking in an oven.
We worship God in many ways, through singing, through talking to Him in prayer, or through physical things like helping others.
»Hebrews 13:15-16 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. 16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
When we do these things because we love and adore Him, it's just like Mary's ointment, with a fragrant scent to it.
:3 anointed the feet of Jesus
Mark and Matthew record that she also anointed His head as well. (Mat.26:7; Mar.14:3)
:3 wiped his feet with her hair
Perhaps she forgot a towel.
Perhaps she wanted to be as much a part of His anointing as she could.
This is a picture of tenderness and intimacy.
:3 the house was filled with the odour of the ointment
The fragrance from Mary's worship of Jesus couldn't be contained at Jesus' feet.
The fragrance began to fill the entire house.
Last week we were having problems with one of the pilot lights on our stove.
The moment you walked in the house from the garage, you could smell it.
A little, itty bitty thing like a pilot light, and the odor of the gas is enough to fill the house.
But this isn't a bad odor, this is a sweet fragrance.
Your worship affects others.
When you do a good deed for somebody out of love for the Lord, don't think that the immediate person is the only one that is touched.
You can't keep the fragrance from spreading.
When others hear about it, and find out that it was an act of love to Jesus, it's pretty powerful stuff!
There is a great difference between a congregation that is simply "singing songs", and a congregation that is indeed, truly worshipping God from their hearts, offering up adoration and praise to their Loving Heavenly Father.
It's very powerful.
And those who walk in and hear it for the first time are impressed that there's something going on.
Perhaps it's because of an increased sense of God's presence in the place.
Ps.22:3 - He inhabits the praises of His people ...
:4 Judas Iscariot, Simon's son
"Iscariot" or man of Kerioth in the tribe of Judah (#Jos 15:25). Judas is the only one of the twelve not a Galilean.
His father, Simon, is most likely not the same man that is hosting the feast. Simon was a pretty common name in those days.
:5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence
three hundred pence - three hundred denarii, a denarius being the equivalent to a day's wage for a field hand.
Three hundred denarii would be perhaps a year's wage.
For us, it would be perhaps worth $15,000 (300 x 50).
Judas is having a hard time with what he sees as a waste of money.
:6 not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
bag - glossokomon - a small box for other uses; esp. a casket, a purse to keep money in.
»NIV - He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Judas appears to have been the treasurer of the group.
Apparently Jesus' little group of disciples had pooled their resources, possibly even accepting donations from supporters.
I find it fascinating that Jesus, who knew what was in the hearts of all men (John 2:24-25), allowed Judas to fulfill this role in his group.
Because the Lord allows you to continue in your sin doesn't mean He approves it.
We can be deceived by thinking that everytime we commit a sin, that God is going to "spank" us.
But that's not the way God prefers to work.
»Psalm 103:10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
Look at how God described Himself to Moses, and notice the sequence of qualities:
»Exodus 34:5-8 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear [the guilty]; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth [generation]. 8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.
God's first choice is to demonstrate patience and kindness towards us.
»Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
»2Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
If you are currently caught in a sin, but things haven't really been so tough, you need to take heed to my warning!
The time to repent is now.
The time to change and leave your sin is now, while things are still easier, before God has to resort to harsher measures to rescue you from your own sin.
An Atheist farmer often taunted and made fun of people who believed in God. He wrote the following letter to the editor of a local newspaper: "I plowed on Sunday, planted on Sunday, cultivated on Sunday, and hauled in my crops on Sunday; but I never went to church on Sunday. Yet I harvested more bushels per acre than anyone else, even those who are God-fearing and never miss a service." The editor printed the man's letter and then added this remark: "God doesn't always settle His accounts in October."
It seems that this event at the dinner at Simon's house (probably not Judas' dad) is one of the things that put Judas over the edge.
The other gospels record that it's at this point that Judas goes to the chief priests and sets up a deal with them to betray Jesus:
»Matthew 26:14-16 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.
Sin progresses from bad to worse!
It seems that Judas' problems started with his greed.
»1Timothy 6:9-10 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
But it didn't end there.
Because he did not deal with his greed, it went from bad to worse.
He progressed from being greedy about the money, to the point where he found himself betraying Jesus.
Many of you have been through some pretty rough cycles of sin.
Some of you know how playing around with a little lust, reading a "magazine for men" can escalate to harder pornography, videos, movies, prostitution, and on and on.
You know that it would have been a lot easier to have stopped it early on, yet you didn't think it was that big a deal at the time.
Some of you have refused to forgive certain people in your life, and have instead built up some pretty good reasons to be a bitter person.
But is it going to stop with that person? How much do you really have your bitterness in control? Is it really true that no one else is hurt? Can you honestly say that your bitterness doesn't spill out on others, like your family?
Westcott - "Mary in her devotion unconsciously provides for the honour of the dead. Judas in his selfishness unconsciously brings about the death itself."
Motives aren't always what they seem.
Judas looked as if he were someone who cared about the poor.
But in reality, he only wanted to keep the group's account full, so he could have more money to pilfer from.
May God give us discernment!
:7 Let her alone
The other gospels record this:
»Matthew 26:13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, [there] shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
:7 against the day of my burying hath she kept this
»NIV - It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.
It was a usual practice to embalm or cover the dead with spices and ointments like this after their death.
Mary had kept this ointment of hers for a special occasion, and though she may not have known specifically what she was doing, she was anointing Jesus' body for burial, before He had died.
During Jesus' actual burial, a week later, he would be wrapped in a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, spices brought by Nicodemus. (John 19:39-40)
:8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
Jesus wasn't saying that we shouldn't take care of the poor.
He's not saying that there will always be poor people, so we shouldn't worry about trying to help them.
Instead He was just explaining why Mary's worship was so important.
He was going to die within the week, and this worship of Mary's was preparation for that.